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Listening Poses Cell Phone Driving Dangers

Talking or Listening Make It Harder to Stay in Lane, Maintain Safe Speed
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WebMD Health News

Aug. 26, 2005 - Whether you're talking or just listening, using a cell phone may make it harder to drive a car safely.

A new study showed that drivers who were speaking or listening had more difficulty maintaining a steady speed, keeping a constant distance between themselves and other vehicles, and staying in the proper lane.

"Unexpectedly we found that speaking and listening had very similar detrimental effects," says researcher Tate Kubose, a postdoctoral fellow in the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the University of Illinois, in a news release. "These results challenge the widespread presumption that production is harder than comprehension and the expectation that talking while driving is necessarily more disruptive than listening."

Researchers say the results show that the mental task of conversing on a cell phone in addition to the physical task of handling the equipment both impair a person's ability to drive safely.

Listening Impairs Driving Skills

In the study, researchers tested college students' skills while driving virtual cars and performing various tasks that required either talking or listening to a speaker in the car while driving, similar to using a hands-free cell phone while driving.

For example, while driving the students had to provide answers about the location of various buildings on their campus or verify statements made by others about the relative positions of buildings on campus.

The results showed that both speaking and listening had negative effects on driving.

Drivers had a harder time maintaining a constant speed or distance between themselves and other traffic than when they were only driving.

Interestingly, researchers found that when drivers were speaking they had better lane control although their speed control was worse.

Researchers say that before this study, it had been expected that speaking would be more detrimental than listening because speaking is often thought to be a more challenging task.

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