July 23, 2010 in Nation/World

Study: Radio sports distract drivers

Brad Cooper McClatchy
 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – We love our professional football, baseball and college teams.

But do we love them so much that it’s actually dangerous to listen to them on the radio as we drive? Maybe so, says a new study out of England.

Sports fans everywhere need to know that rooting for your favorite teams while driving could be risky.

“You should be aware that it will affect how quickly you can respond in an emergency,” said Nick Reed, a researcher at the Transportation Research Laboratory in England.

The study, done for the insurance company Direct Line, found that drivers’ reaction times were 20 percent slower when they were emotionally invested in games on the radio.

If you’re traveling at 70 mph, the distraction adds about 20 feet to your stopping distance. That’s about 10 percent farther than if you were at the legal limit for being drunk.

Reed said a sporting event was more distracting than music but less distracting than a cell phone, a target for safety advocates.

The report’s findings were consistent with other studies on driver distraction, said Paul Atchley, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Kansas who has studied distracted driving.

Atchley said radio in general tended not to be so much a distraction on the road because it didn’t require interaction. We can yell at the radio, but we don’t have to listen to its response.

“But if people are emotionally interested in the content, that can be a distraction,” he said.

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