Rural drivers using cell phones are likely to cause accidents

June 24, 2005

Rural drivers using cell phones while driving are nearly four times more likely to cause automobile accidents than rural drivers not using cell phones, according to a new study by the Western Transportation Institute based at Montana State University.
As one of the first studies conducted in rural areas, the findings corroborate data showing that rural drivers should hang up and drive.

Researchers tested 36 drivers aged 18 to 63 in a simulated vehicle and asked the drivers to dial the national 511 highway information system. Drivers then had to follow instructions and punch in numbers to access specific highway information such as road closures or weather-related driving conditions. Meanwhile, the simulator screens in front of the drivers presented unexpected obstacles such as wildlife, farm vehicles or pedestrians on the road.

"Based on the fact that drivers are 3.8 times more likely to get in a car accident when using a cell phone, it is best to dial before driving," said WTI researcher Laura Stanley. "It is preferable that drivers don't use cell phones while driving, whether on urban or rural roads, because most research shows a higher risk of being involved in an accident. It's a driver distraction."

She compares the level of distraction to driving while intoxicated.

"One study showed that driving while using a cell phone is like being at .08 blood-alcohol content limit, which is the legal limit in Montana," she said.

"I was surprised at how distracted I was by dialing the cell phone," said study subject, Jeralyn Brodowy of Bozeman. "I was so distracted that I ran into (simulated) deer--a herd of deer actually."

Brodowy said that she owns a cell phone, but after the study, she began limiting use while driving.

"I'm not ready to give up my cell phone," she said. "It's too much of a convenience. I have tried to not use it as much while driving."

Stanley notes that while more cities and states consider banning cell phone use while driving, some cities like New York and Washington, D.C., simply ban hand-held cell phones while driving, yet allow hands-free calling. Stanley notes that it appears to be the distraction of conversing on the phone rather than holding or manipulating it that causes accidents.

"Our study shows that drivers are as equally distracted with the hands-free calls as they are with hand-held," said Stanley.

Stanley and the WTI research team of Michael Kelly and Suzanne Lassacher were surprised to find that basic driving performance, lane keeping and consistent speed were not affected by dialing the 511 traveler information system.

"What we found is that situation awareness, how aware you are of changing situations was highly affected," Stanley said. "Accidents tended to occur when the drivers using the cell phones encountered a hazard they were not expecting."

Stanley is presenting her findings in late June at the Third International Driving Symposium on Human Factors in Driver Assessment Training and Vehicle Design conference in Rockport, Maine.

Source: Montana State University-Bozeman

Explore further: NIR-driven H2 evolution from water: Expanding wavelength range for solar energy conversion

Related Stories

Researchers describe mechanism behind flagellar motility

November 13, 2017

Bacteria swim in many different ways, and the motors that drive their swimming are widely varied, implying an adaptive response to an environment. One of the most commonly identified of such motors is flagella. Although providing ...

Lung cancer driver ALK-fusion found in melanoma

October 23, 2017

Melanomas caused by sun exposure have been matched with targeted treatments and immunotherapies, in many cases dramatically extending patients' lives. However, there are other kinds of melanoma not related to sun exposure ...

A force-driven mechanism for establishing cell polarity

November 6, 2017

A team of researchers from the Mechanobiology Institute, Singapore (MBI) at the National University of Singapore, along with colleagues from Temasek Life Sciences Laboratory and A*STAR's Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology ...

Deadly lung cancers are driven by multiple genetic changes

November 6, 2017

A new UC San Francisco-led study challenges the dogma in oncology that most cancers are caused by one dominant "driver" mutation that can be treated in isolation with a single targeted drug. Instead, the new research finds ...

Recommended for you

Heavy nitrogen molecules reveal planetary-scale tug-of-war

November 17, 2017

Nature whispers its stories in a faint molecular language, and Rice University scientist Laurence Yeung and colleagues can finally tell one of those stories this week, thanks to a one-of-a-kind instrument that allowed them ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.