In North Carolina, it is illegal for anyone to text while driving, and for people under age 18 to use a cell phone while driving. Some experts believe that talking on a cell phone while driving should be illegal for everyone, including people who use hands-free devices.
That’s because talking alone–the act of participating in a conversation–is a major distraction. Studies have shown that people who talk while driving have a 4-times greater risk of getting in an accident–that’s about the same additional risk as drinking while driving.
Some people have suggested that video gamers might be better able to deal with the distractions of driving. After all, they are masters of multi-tasking: Many games require a player to talk on a headset, manipulate game controls, and pay attention to what’s happening on the screen. So maybe gamers would also be able to handle the similar tasks of talking on a phone, manipulating car controls, and paying attention to the road.
Nice idea, but it’s not true. Science has proved it.
According to an article in the News & Observer, researchers at Duke tested the hypothesis and published the results in the journal Attention, Perception, and Psychophysics.
“For years I’ve been getting (angry) at drivers on their cellphones nearly running into me,” says lead researcher Stephen Mitroff, associate professor of psychology and neuroscience and member of the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences. “I wanted some data so I could justify my anger.”
His anger, he learned, is justified. Everyone’s performance on every task suffered while multitasking.
“We’ve all been talking on the phone since we were 10, and driving for almost as long,” says Mitroff. “They seem second nature. We see the data and think, yeah, but I’m okay. But then everyone can think of that horrible person they’ve been behind.”