Skip to content

    Mental Health Center

    Font Size
    A
    A
    A

    Why Cell Phones and Driving Don't Mix

    Drivers beware: The brain can't multitask as well as you might think.
    By
    WebMD Magazine - Feature

    In every issue of WebMD the Magazine, we ask experts to answer readers' questions about a wide range of topics, including questions about what's true and not true in the field of medicine. For our July/August 2012 issue, we interviewed a University of Utah researcher about the danger of using a phone behind the wheel.

    Q: I've read that driving while talking on a cell phone is as bad as driving drunk. Is that true?

    Recommended Related to Mental Health

    Dealing with Divorce

    Are your parents getting divorced? You are not alone. About half of all marriages end in divorce. But dealing with divorce isn't easy. The divorce process can be painful and sad for everybody involved (parents, kids, grandparents, close friends, and more).

    Read the Dealing with Divorce article > >

    A: Many people can't imagine not chatting on the phone while driving. But the stories you've heard are TRUE. Cell phone use impairs driving just as much as alcohol.

    That's just one of the conclusions by David Strayer, PhD, a professor of psychology at the University of Utah, who has published a series of articles that show driving while talking on a cell phone -- hands-free or not -- is the same as driving with a blood alcohol level of .08, the legal limit.

    In one study he found that talking to a passenger improves driving, because "there is another set of eyes on the road, a person who knows to be quiet if the driving gets difficult."

    In his most recent research, Strayer found that a conversation that triggers mental imagery -- a description of a vacation, for instance -- is most disruptive. "Driving and mental imagery both use the same part of the brain," Strayer says. "So the imagery will block out the driving environment. People literally won't see what they're looking at."

    Find more articles, browse back issues, and read the current issue of "WebMD the Magazine."

    Reviewed on May 15, 2012

    Today on WebMD

    contemplation
    Differences between feeling depressed or feeling blue.
    lunar eclipse
    Signs of mania and depression.
     
    man screaming
    Causes, symptoms, and therapies.
    woman looking into fridge
    When food controls you.
     
    Woman standing in grass field barefoot, wind blowi
    Article
    senior man eating a cake
    Article
     
    Phobias
    Slideshow
    woman reading medicine warnings
    Article
     
    depressed young woman
    Article
    man with arms on table
    Article
     
    veteran
    Article
    man cringing and covering ears
    Article
     

    WebMD Special Sections