People who talk on cell phones while driving, even using “hands-free” devices, are as impaired as drunk drivers, researchers said on Thursday.[…] The researchers used a driving simulation device for their study, published in the summer 2006 issue of Human Factors: The Journal of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society.
They studied 40 volunteers who used a driving simulator four times — while undistracted, using a handheld cell phone, using a hands-free cell phone and while intoxicated to a 0.08 percent blood-alcohol level — the average legal level of impairment in the United States — after drinking vodka and orange juice.
Three study participants rear-ended the simulated car in front of them. All were talking on cellphones and none was drunk, the researchers said.
That last bit was because the drunk drivers were driving on the sidewalk.
Could this kick off a new round of road-safety legislation? States like New York that ban handheld but not hands-free cellphones will have to seriously consider the logic of banning one but not the other. Specifically, they will consider it for the brief time that it takes to imagine convincing people driving through Manhattan to pull over to make a call.