Talking on the Phone
Ringing in at the top spot on our list: talking on the phone. This dubious honor goes to the granddaddy of distracted driving, the now-ubiquitous cell phone. Ever since Wall Street titans and wannabe titans wielded the gigantic brick phones of the 1980s, our obsession with mobile communication has gotten us in trouble behind the wheel.
Driving under the influence of a cell phone, be it handheld or hands-free, impairs driver reaction to the same level as being at the legal limit for blood alcohol content of .08 [source: stoptextsstopwrecks.org].
Hands-free headsets appear to reduce the risk somewhat -- instead of both cognitive and manual impairment as you have with a handheld device, hands-free units only tie up your mental capabilities; in some jurisdictions, they're mandatory for people who talk on the phone while they drive.
Studies suggest that talking on a cell phone roughly quadruples a person's risk of being involved in a crash [source: AAA Foundation].
How could something that seems so innocuous be so deadly? Once again, it lies in the brain's ability to truly do only one thing at a time. We've become such masters at task switching that we create the illusion of successfully doing two or more things simultaneously. But throw a surprise into the mix, like a child darting into traffic or a slamming of the brakes by the car in front of us, and the brain can quickly fail to keep pace.
So there you have it -- 10 of the most dangerously distracting habits you can engage in while driving. While you might have a greater awareness of the risks now, just remember that many people don't. So be safe out there.
For more information on driving-related topics, follow the links below.
- AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. "Distracted Driving." (Dec. 27, 2011) http://www.aaafoundation.org/multimedia/distracteddriving.cfm?gclid=CPqmnfKctK0CFaQRNAodMgKfmQ
- California Department of Motor Vehicles. "Driver Distractions -- Don't Be a Statistic." (Dec. 23, 2011) http://dmv.ca.gov/pubs/brochures/fast_facts/ffdl28.htm
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Distracted Driving." (Dec. 21, 2011) http://www.cdc.gov/Motorvehiclesafety/Distracted_Driving/index.html
- Distraction.gov. "Jacy Good." National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and U.S. Department of Transportation. (Dec. 26, 2011) http://www.distraction.gov/content/faces/index.html#/faces/jacy-good/
- The Economist. "Think before you speak; Distracted driving is the new drunk driving." April 14, 2011. (Dec. 21, 2011) http://www.economist.com/node/18561075
- Geico.com. "Distracted Driving: Tips to Help You Focus on the Road." (Dec. 23, 2011) http://www.geico.com/information/safety/auto/teendriving/distracted-driving/
- Kotz, Deborah. "Driving Drowsy as Bad as Driving Drunk." U.S. News & World Report. Nov. 8, 2010. (Dec. 22, 2011) http://health.usnews.com/health-news/family-health/sleep/articles/2010/11/08/driving-drowsy-as-bad-as-driving-drunk
- Medina, John. "Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School." Pear Press. 2008.
- National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. "Wake Up and Get Some Sleep." (Dec. 23, 2011) http://stnw.nhtsa.gov/people/injury/drowsy_driving1/human/drows_driving/
- Occupational Safety and Health Administration. "Distracted Driving." (Dec. 26, 2011) http://www.osha.gov/distracted-driving/index.html
- Pradeep, A.K. "The Buying Brain: Secrets for Selling to the Subconscious Mind." Audible, Inc. November 2010.
- Stoptextsstopwrecks.org. "Stop the Texts. Stop the Wrecks." (Dec. 27, 2011) http://www.stoptextsstopwrecks.org/#facts
- Teen Driver Source. "Distracted Driving." Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Research Institute. (Dec. 28, 2011) http://www.teendriversource.org/more_pages/page/distracted_driving_/support_gov?gclid=CKmguuKctK0CFUOo4AodBFaLmQ
- Watson, Jason M. and Strayer, David L. "Supertaskers: Profiles in extraordinary multitasking ability." Psychonomic Bulletin and Review. 2010. (Dec. 27, 2011) http://www.psych.utah.edu/lab/appliedcognition/publications/supertaskers.pdf
If you're a motorist you may be silently cursing the bicyclist in front of you for making you late. But a study showed the speed difference was negligible.