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Cell phones distract drivers, hands down

7:50pm, February 3, 2003

Calling all motorists: Using a hands-free cell phone while driving markedly interferes with the ability to maneuver a vehicle safely, according to several new tests.

In 2001, David L. Strayer of the University of Utah in Salt Lake City and his colleagues reported that people talking on either handheld or handsfree cell phones during simulated drives ran red lights more often and reacted more slowly to traffic signals than when not talking on a phone. No such problems occurred for drivers who either talked with a passenger or listened to the radio or to books on tape.

In new investigations led by Strayer, 110 college students operating a driving simulator caused more rear-end collisions and reacted more slowly to vehicles braking in front of them during periods when they talked on a hands free cell phone. The worst impairments occurred while driving in heavy traffic, the researchers report in the March Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied.


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