In this Moment of Science, we discuss more evidence on the dangers of talking on cell phones–hands-free or not–while driving.
A study done by a psychologist and an engineer at the University of Rhode Island had volunteers wear eye-tracking devices while they drove. The researchers found that a driver’s eyes move around a lot–we scan the road, check our speedometers, and stay alert for surprises. When talking on a cell phone at the same time, though, eye motions fell to almost zero–the subjects simply stared at the bumper ahead of them.
The issue seems to be not talking on the phone per se but concentrating on a second task, such as making a decision with the person on the other end of the line. When we do that, we take our mental energy away from driving. And that’s dangerous!