Over distracting cell phones are in the car

Over the years as cell phones have become
a more common item for everyone to have access to, it also has been common to
hear about accidents that supposedly happened in conjunction with cell phone
use in the car. The topic of how distracting cell phones are in the car and
what they can cause when they do distract us is something that should be of
interest to everyone because you may not only be putting yourself in harm’s way
but also other people on the road. Considering this article is from 2001, it is
even more essential today to pay attention to phone usage in the car because
our phones can do a lot more than they could do in 2001.

            The article addresses some different
theoretical issues. It talks about the issue that cell phone use, before this
article was published, was linked with a fourfold increase of a risk of getting
into an accident while driving. This was an alarming find for many because the
risk of getting into an accident was relatable to being out driving with a
blood alcohol level above the legal limit. Another issue discussed was that a
short, simple conversation on your phone while driving may not actually be totally
harmful at all in these accidents. Despite this, if the driver in a simulated
driving task and does more complex things than just a simple phone call, like
reasoning tasks or memory asks, then that is when we see a difference in the
ability of what the driver can do. The general hypothesis being tested in the
article was that cell phone use disrupts driving performance by shifting the
focus of the driver’s attention to having to have their brain engage and can
focus on what is happening over the phone instead of being focused on what is
immediately happening in front of them while they are driving.

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            There were several components that
went into this study design but there were some that stood out as being the
most important for the information at hand. In one of the two experiments conducted
in the study, the first looked at forty-eight undergraduates and used a
simulated driving task to test out the effects of how our driving experience
would be impacted dependent on whether they were using a hands-free cell phone
or a phone that required them to hold it.  Participants in the study were also randomly
assigned to one of three different groups in the study: handheld phone, radio
control, and hands-free phone. In this simulated driving task, the flashing of
red and green lights was used if they were supposed to continue doing what they
were doing or if they were supposed to brake as quickly as they could respond. From
this, the study consisted of three phases: a tracking task, single-task
portion, and then the dual task portion. In the single-task portion,
participants ended up being asked to perform a tracking task. Each task
required a slightly longer amount of time by the participant to complete the
task as they made their way through each phase. People in the phone
conversation groups talked about different scandals going on, such as the Clinton
presidential impeachment, which required them to talk to a confederate while
also performing the task for the experiment. In the second experiment, the
focus was on figuring out what specifically causes our brain to perform an
interference with driving and phones the way that it does by having people
drive an easy course and a difficult simulated course. Twenty-four undergraduates
participated in the study. In the study, the participants did a pursuit tracking
task like what they did in the first study. The participants used a single task
mode in each course they were completing and used two dual-task conditions, one
of which was a shadowing task, with a cell phone. One dual-task condition
tested the ability to multitask with the phone while the other required a word
generation task where a certain word would prompt the participant to have to
think of a word that starts with the letter r.

The findings of the experiments may be
surprising to those who are adamant that talking on the phone while driving has
little to no effect on driving performance. For experiment one, these data are important
because when you look at them and break them down they show that the phone
conversation itself was the cause of the slow response to the simulated traffic
signal and lead to an increase in the likelihood that the driver would miss
those signals as well. This means that the handheld and hands-free devices both
lead to dual-task deficits that were close to each other in number. The second experiment
found that when participants were talking on the phone during the simulation,
they ended up missing twice as many simulated traffic signals and when they did
detect a signal they took much longer to react to it than they should have. It
was also interesting that the results were the same whether the participant used
a hands-free or handheld cell-phone. As mentioned in the second experiment,
when participants had to do the word generation task their tracking error ended
up increasing but it did not increase when they were performing a shadowing
task. These data coincide with the problem with talking on the phone while
driving being because it shifts your attention from the road to the phone
conversation itself. An important conclusion from the experiment is that what
is an important take away is that using your phone while driving will
inherently take away your ability to react to sudden events that inevitably
happen while driving.

Overall, this experiment is important to
our society as a whole now because phones are so central to who we are as
people now. In 2001, when this article came out, it was not as common to have a
cell phone but now it is almost unheard of to not have a cell phone which means
the topic of safety while driving is more important than ever and needs to be
talked about more. Studies like this concretely tell you that you are slower at
responding to traffic signals and such while on your phone and you also miss
twice as many signals. To any normal person, this should strike you as a sign that
you should put your phone down while you are driving. This study only reminded
me of how dangerous using your phone in the car can be and how we should make
sure put our phone down and focus on the road.