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Mobile Phone Use while Driving as Risky as DUI Alcohol
March 6th, 2008
A new study has found that using a mobile phone while driving could be as dangerous as being under the influence of alcohol.
The study that was conducted by Carnegie Mellon University researchers found that drivers who were under the influence of alcohol and those who were speaking on their mobile phones, tend to commit the same type of errors.
The study documented how mobile phone use alone reduces 37% of brain activity engaged in driving. This was done using brain imaging. During the study, drivers on a simulator while on the phone were found to zigzag out of their lanes.
The findings also suggest that making mobile phones hands-free or voice activated for that matter is not really enough to do away with distractions.
“Drivers need to keep not only their hands on the wheel; they also have to keep their brains on the road,” said researcher Marcel Just.
Talking on a cell phone has a special social demand, and not interacting with the caller can be interpreted as rude or insulting behavior, he added.
The 29 volunteers for the study used a driving simulator inside an (MRI) brain scanner. They steered a car along a virtual winding road either while they were undisturbed or while they were deciding whether a sentence they heard was true or false.
Just’s team used state-of-the-art functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to measure activity in 20,000 brain locations, each about the size of a peppercorn. Measurements were recoded every second.
The listening-and-driving mode produced a 37 percent decrease in activity of the brain’s parietal lobe, which is associated with driving.