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New study focuses on why calls while driving can be dangerous

According to the U.S. National Highway Safety Administration, 391,000 people were injured and nearly 3,500 people were killed in road accidents involving distracted drivers in 2015. We often hear that we should not use our cell phones while driving unless we have a handsfree system that allows us to focus on the road and talk at the same time. However, a new study reveals that even having a simple conversation on the phone or in person can take your attention away from driving and cause car accidents.

Researchers tracked participants' eye movements as they answered true or false questions during computerized experiments that simulated driving while talking on the phone or with a passenger in the vehicle. They compared their movements to participants who were not asked to respond to questions or not asked any questions. They found that those who were asked to answer questions took twice as long to shift their eyes to a new object, with a delay of approximately 40 milliseconds. While that may not seem like a long time, the delay can compound each time you are distracted. This means that each time you switch your focus from one thing to another, the delay gets longer.

It may seem surprising that a simple conversation with a friend can have such a significant impact. However, a simple conversation is not really that simple. Your brain has to take in the information being said, process it and come up with a response. When you are on the phone, some studies have found that the conversation may place a mental burden on you while driving, making it more difficult for you to see objects on the road or react to new objects.

This study, among many others, shows that cell phone use while driving is dangerous and should be avoided at all costs.

Source: Iowa Now, "UI study explores why cell phone use leads to distracted driving," Richard C. Lewis, June 5, 2017

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