For nearly 30 years we there has been a constant and very active campaign to stop drunk driving. The laws get tougher and tougher each year, with acceptable blood alcohol levels dropping and sentences getting stiffer. In fact, if someone dies from their injuries in an accident where alcohol was involved, the inoxicated driver may be charged with murder.
Recent studies have shown that drivers talking on cell phones are as or more impaired than drunk drivers, yet we have every few laws against driving while talking on the phone.
In a study by University of Utah psychologists, published in the June 29 issue of Human Factors: the Journal of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, comparing the effects of alcohol and cell phone use on driving, researchers found that people talking on cell phones, even hands-free devices, were significantly more impaired than intoxicated drivers.
Referring to an earlier study by the same group, David Strayer, University of Utah psychology professor and principal author of the study says, "If you put a 20-year-old driver behind the wheel with a cell phone, their reaction times are the same as a 70-year-old driver who is not using a cell phone. "
In 2002, NewScientist reported that in experiments conducted by Transport Research Laboratory, "drivers talking on mobile phones had 30% slower reaction times than those who had been drinking, and 50% slower times than sober participants." Again, using a hands-free cell phone did not prevent distraction.
Different from other distractions
We are constantly encountering distractions while driving, but most require less attention. It is more than a conscious choice. It is how the brain works. When we talk on the phone our brain dedicates more to hearing and vision actually blurs a bit. When we are talking with passengers, they are aware of what is going on and automatically respond to changes in traffic and situations which call for elevated driver attention, releasing our brains to do what we need to do. A person on the phone has no clue what is going on, and does not intuitively have this way. In fact, they may intensify the conversation, creating even more distraction at a critical moment.
Non-interactive distractions, such as listening to the radio, do not slow down reaction time because they do not interfere with the brain's ability to automatically shift its attention to the most important task at hand.
Producing cell phone use
If you have been injured in an accident caused by a cell phone user, it can be a key factor in proving fault. Although the laws are slowly changing, they are still very lax when it comes to cell phones and driving. Cell phone use is rarely included in police reports and drivers rarely admit to the fact that they have been on the phone when an incident occurred. Most will try to hide it.
Cell phone records can be difficult to understand, and do not always accurately reflect the time of a call, and most companies do not keep calling records for very long. Often, the only way to prove that cell phone use was to blame for an accident is through witness statements.