January 3, 2008 in Nation/World

Study says cell phones make for slower drivers

Associated Press The Spokesman-Review

WASHINGTON – Drivers talking on cell phones are probably making your commute even longer, concludes a new study.

Motorists yakking away, even with hands-free devices, crawl about 2 mph slower on commuter-clogged roads than people not on the phone, and they just don’t keep up with the flow of traffic, said study author David Strayer, a psychology professor at the University of Utah.

If you commute by car an hour a day, it could add around 20 hours a year to your commute, Strayer said.

“The distracted driver tends to drive slower and have delayed reactions,” said Strayer, whose study will be presented later this month to the Transportation Research Board of the National Academy of Sciences. “People kind of get stuck behind that person and it makes everyone pay the price of that distracted driver.”

Strayer’s study, based on three dozen students driving in simulators, found that drivers on cell phones are far more likely to stick behind a slow car in front of them and change lanes about 20 percent less often than drivers not on the phone.

Overall, cell phone drivers took about 3 percent longer to drive the same highly traffic-clogged route (and about 2 percent longer to drive a medium-congested route) than people who were not on the phone. About one in 10 drivers is on the phone, so it really adds up, said Strayer, whose earlier studies have found slower reaction times from drivers on phones.

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