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Study: Talking on a Phone Worse than Driving Drunk

Study: Talking on a Phone Worse than Driving Drunk

By Jay Wrolstad
March 22, 2002 11:50AM

'We were surprised by the results,' Dominic Burch, road safety campaign manager for UK-based Direct Line, told Wireless NewsFactor. He said the researchers expected that alcohol consumption would cause greater impairment of driving ability than talking on a mobile phone.

A British study just released shows that talking on a mobile phone while driving is more hazardous than operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. The study is sure to raise a few eyebrows and fuel the controversy over legislation aimed at banning cell phone use by drivers.
Tests conducted by scientists at the UK-based Transport Research Laboratory for insurance firm Direct Line involved 20 subjects using a driving simulator to test reaction times and driving performance.

Researchers tested how driving impairment was affected when drivers were talking on a handheld mobile phone or a hands-free phone, and when drivers had consumed enough alcohol to register above the legal blood-alcohol limit. The UK legal alcohol limit is 80mg/100ml, or .80.

Direct Line reported that the results showed drivers" reaction times were, on average, 30 percent slower when talking on a handheld mobile phone than when legally drunk -- and nearly 50 percent slower than under normal driving conditions.

Also, the tests showed, drivers talking on phones were less able than drunk drivers to maintain a constant speed, and they had greater difficulty keeping a safe distance from the car in front.

Phone Hazards

Using a handheld mobile phone had the greatest impact on driving performance, the report said.

On average, it took handheld mobile phone users half a second longer to react than normal and a third of a second longer to react compared to when they were drunk.

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