Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Health & Balance

Font Size

Driving + Cell Phones = Big Road Risk

Study: Chatting on Cell Phones While Driving May Be as Bad as Driving Drunk
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

June 29, 2006 -- Driving under the influence of a cell phone may be a major road hazard, according to a University of Utah study.

"The impairments associated with using a cell phone while driving can be as profound as those associated with driving while drunk," write psychology professor David Strayer, PhD, and colleagues in the summer issue of the journal Human Factors.

Strayer's team tested the driving skills -- on a simulator, not real roads -- of 25 men and 15 women under four conditions:

  • No distractions
  • Talking on a hand-held cell phone about a favorite subject
  • Talking on a hands-free cell phone headset about a favorite subject
  • Driving while drunk (blood-alcohol concentration of 0.08%) without talking on a cell phone

Driving with a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.08% or higher is against the law in all U.S. states and Washington, D.C.

Chatting Behind the Wheel

The simulator resembled a Ford Crown Victoria sedan. Participants were to drive along a simulated stretch of highway without crashing into the car ahead of them, which braked at unpredictable times.

The drivers were 22-34 years old (average age: 25). They had good eyesight, valid drivers' licenses, and an average of eight years of driving experience. More than three-quarters owned a cell phone; almost all of those drivers -- 87% -- said they have used a cell phone while driving.

In the cell phone tests, participants chatted on a cell phone about a favorite topic. They spoke with a research assistant, and they didn't have to dial the phones or answer the phones while driving.

Cell Phone Crashes

While on either type of cell phone (hands-free or hand-held), drivers were more likely to rear-end the car ahead of them than when they were undistracted. They were also slower to brake and to accelerate after braking while on either type of cell phone.

No differences were seen between the use of hands-free or hand-held cell phones while driving. The conversation itself -- not the device -- may be the biggest distraction, note Strayer and colleagues.

"Clearly the safest course of action is not to use a cell phone while driving," the researchers write. They add that when they interviewed participants after the study, most hadn't realized that their driving was worse while on the cell phone.

Today on WebMD

woman in yoga class
6 health benefits of yoga.
beautiful girl lying down of grass
10 relaxation techniques to try.
mature woman with glass of water
Do you really need to drink 8 glasses of water a day?
coffee beans in shape of mug
Get the facts.
Take your medication
Hand appearing to hold the sun
Hungover man
Welcome mat and wellington boots
Woman worn out on couch
Happy and sad faces
Fingertip with string tied in a bow
laughing family