Saturday, June 28, 2008

Might as well be legally drunk?!

I just read an article summing up lots of research which indicates that talking on a cell phone while driving is the equivalent of driving with a .08 blood alcohol content (BAC). This is legally drunk in the United States (1), one of the more liberal countries in this regard, sharing the highest BAC limit to be considered legally drunk with a few other countries like Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, and the UK. (For many countries it is just .02 BAC to be considered legally drunk. A few countries, including Czech Republic and Hungary, have a legal BAC of .00! That means no alcohol allowed in your blood if you are driving!)

We all know that drunk driving kills. We all know that our reasoning abilities, response times, alertness, judgment, concentration, and coordination are impaired if we have been drinking. We may or may not further realize that our reflexes, depth perception, distance acuity, and peripheral vision are also affected (2), leading to a dramatic decrease in general safety behind the wheel. The crash risk is known to be about ten times higher with a BAC of .08 (3), which is the equivalent of talking on a cell phone while driving!

Apparently it isn't really the distraction of dialing or answering or holding the phone with only one hand free for driving. (These are practices I had stopped doing, for safety's sake, by having my passenger dial for me, and by using a hands-free device.) It seems that the research indicates that attention isn't really affected by merely listening to a speaker who is not present (i.e. the radio) nor by conversing with a speaker who is present (i.e. a passenger in the car with you), but that attention scores plummet when one is asked to converse with a speaker who is not present (i.e. the person at the other end of your cell phone call).

I guess I found my second stake. (See "Setting Stakes" on June 15.)

No comments: