9/5/2013 3:30 PM ET|
Ranking your driving distractions
Whether hand-held or hands-free, cellphones are a dangerous distraction to drivers. Find out what other activities make it hard to focus on the road.
Hands-free cellphone systems distract drivers almost as much as holding a device up to your ear -- and voice-to-text email programs are more or less the worst of all, AAA research shows.
"'Hands-free' is not risk free," says University of Utah researcher David Strayer, who recently studied distracted driving for AAA. "You can get impairments even with some of the new voiced-based (systems) that allow you to keep your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road."
Strayer and his team performed a series of experiments on volunteers to measure how a range of distractions -- from listening to the radio to answering math questions -- affect driving proficiency.
Using road tests and driving simulators, researchers monitored how volunteers' brake times and adherence to speed limits and proper following distances changed as subjects engaged in a series of side activities. Investigators also recorded participants' brain waves and eye and head movements to see how well drivers stayed focused on the road.
Based on the findings, Strayer created a system to rate how much different activities impair drivers.
Rankings range from a Category 1 (minimal distraction) to a Category 5, which the professor describes as "off the charts." Tasks that demand roughly the same amount of brainpower as regular driving rate a Category 1, while those involving 200% the concentration levels garner a Category 2, etc.
Strayer says anything higher than a Category 2 appears dangerous, as "you're pretty minimally engaged as a driver by the time you get above that."
Here's a look at how various activities rank on his scale:
- Regular driving. Strayer gave driving with no distractions a baseline ranking of Category 1.
- Listening to the radio. This activity also rates a Category 1, as the professor calculated it involves only 121% of regular driving's "mental workload."
- Listening to books on tape. Strayer estimates listening to books on tape requires 175% the brainpower of regular driving, meaning it's still a Category 1.
- Hands-free cellphone calls. Hands-free cell calls rank a Category 2 because they require an estimated 227% as much mental work as basic driving does.
- Talking to a passenger. Holding a conversation with another person in your car is a Category 2 task because it involves some 233% as much cognitive effort as regular driving.
- Hand-held cellphone calls. Talking on a cellphone you hold in your hand ranks a Category 2, as it demands roughly 245% the concentration that driving with no distractions does.
- Dictating an email with speech-to-text system. This activity rates a dangerous Category 3 because it involves an estimated 306% as much brainpower as driving a car with no side activities.
- Doing math/memory problems. To learn whether mental distractions impair drivers more than physical ones (such as holding a cellphone), researchers gave test subjects a series of math and memory problems to solve while traveling down the road. While drivers would never do such work in real life, Strayer ranked the tests -- which involve brainpower but no physical effort -- a Category 5 because they require an estimated 500% of simple driving's cognitive effort.
Strayer says his rankings show that laws allowing hands-free cell calls while banning hand-held ones "just aren't based on good science. They're making a distinction between two activities that seem to have the same level of impairment."
So he recommends drivers "not be lulled into thinking 'hands-free' is risk free. Driving is inherently risky -- you need to not only keep your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel, but you need to pay attention to what you're doing."
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Last week my husband was in a "right turn only" lane. The person (man) in front of him wasn't moving and the way was clear to turn. Finally, my husband blew his horn. After both made the turn, the man yelled and motioned with his phone - "Can't you see I was on my phone"?
I guess driving is not considered a priority.
It's time we got serious about enacting a law to prevent using cell phones in a car.
Starting January 1 Illinois drivers will be ticketed for having a cell phone held to their head.My car has the hands free system but I still feel distracted when I use it.
It's not about where your hands are,but where your mind is.Of course you can go too far by having a phone,coffee,cigarette all at once.
Anyone who is under the influence of distracted driving and causing the death of someone else in an accident should be charged with a first degree murder charge punishable by 50 years of imprisonment without parole, everyday I see distracted driving and quite a few times almost falling victim to someone elses stupidity, By law there should be a mandatory jamming device in cars and trucks of phones and texting but our Government is in the "Big business" of our destruction instead of our protection.
Most of you relate to the modern distractions like texting, phones and such.
Well here's one for the books too !
While going down a very busy, 8 lane highway, this guy (was that you Fat Cat ) from Ohio(sorry Ohio) had a map stretched out across the front windshield, cut across all 8 lanes and of course, didn't even look.
Looks like the 'old school' problems/distractions are still here too.
its' not just certain times of the day either. it can be as early as 6:00a.m. to midnight. what you possibly have to talk about that early unless it is an emergency?
the remainder have their seat so reclined it is amazing they can get anywhere at all. how can you see the road? other vehicles?
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