There have been many technological advancements in recent years, especially in the field of information communication technology. Cellular phones have become a part of our lives, permeating every part of our social and personal lives. One of the fields that have been affected by this phenomenon is driving, many times to fatal ends. The introduction of this paper explains the prevalence of road carnage incidents as a direct result of the use of cellular telephones while driving. The method used is a review of experiments carried out by scholars in the fields of communication and psychology.
Every year, an average of 1.3 million people die from road accidents globally, accounting for 3,287 deaths every single day (“Road Crash Statistics”, 2016). 20-50 million others suffer injuries and impairments as a direct result of road accidents (“Road Crash Statistics”, 2016). Road crashes are the 9th leading cause of death globally and is projected to be the fifth leading cause of death globally by 2030 unless action is taken to remedy the situation (“Road Crash Statistics”, 2016). In the United States, 37,000 people die from road accidents annually on average and another 2.35 million are injured annually on average (“Road Crash Statistics”, 2016). More than half of all road accident deaths occur among young people between the ages of 15 and 44 years old (“Road Crash Statistics”, 2016...
). Road accidents are also the leading cause of death for young people between the ages of 15 and 29 years old (“Road Crash Statistics”, 2016).
Consequently, these are the age groups most prone to get distracted by telephone cellular and other technological devices while driving. Research has shown that the relative risk of getting in a road accident while using a cell phone is similar to the risk associated with getting involved in a road accident while driving under the influence of alcohol under the legal limit (Strayer, Drews, & Crouch, 2006). This paper examines the effects of distraction by cellular telephones and other technological devices while driving on the probability of getting involved in a road accident by examining a number of experiments carried out on the phenomenon.
The methodology used for this paper is a review of experiments carried out by experts in the fields of communication and psychology on the effects of the use of cell phones while driving. A total of six experiments were reviewed.
The first experiment to be examined was carried out by David L. Strayer, Frank A. Drews, and Dennis J. Crouch of the University of Utah on a drunk driver and one who was distracted on a cellular telephone. 8% of drivers use their cell phones on the roadways at any given hour on American roads. The use of cell phones and other technology based distractors has more effect on drivers because they require more cognitive indulgence. They have more impact on young drivers who are likely to attach more meaning to the functions on their cell phones than older drivers. These are more likely to miss traffic signs, have slow response to the signs that they do see
and are more likely to get involved in rear end accidents while conversing on their cell phones (Strayer, Drews, & Crouch, 2006).
They are also more likely to gaze at things at the external environment and still not register what they see in their minds as they are engaged on the internal cognitive process associated with conversing on a cell phone (Strayer, Drews, & Crouch, 2006). Drunk drivers, in contrast, were found to be more engaged in the driving process, following the cars ahead more carefully and being more aggressive in their breaking (Strayer, Drews, & Crouch, 2006). The experiment proved that while drunk drivers have slower cognitive functionalities and distorted motor skills, drivers distracted by cell phones exhibit similar characteristics (Strayer, Drews, & Crouch, 2006). Both drivers have an equal likelihood of causing a road accident.
The second experiment examine was carried out by William Consiglio, Peter Driscoll, Matthew Witte, William P. Berg of the Miami University in 2003. It proved that the use of cellular phones while driving reduced the response time and thus increased the risk for a road accident occurring. A similar result was established for holding a conversation with live passengers in the car while driving, at almost equal measure(Consiglio, Driscoll, Witte, & Berg, 2003). Curiously, the experiment established that listening to the radio while driving had no effect on a driver’s reaction time(Consiglio, Driscoll, Witte, & Berg, 2003). A driver’s response time was determined to reduce by 19% for a drive who uses his or her phone while driving. This research proved that the cause of road accidents for drivers distracted by cell phones was not the time they spent looking at the screen while dialing or receiving phone call, or the reduced dexterity caused by the multi-tasking process of handling a cell phone while driving, but rather by reduced concentration caused by the engagement of a driver’s cognitive functions in a conversation (Consiglio, Driscoll, Witte, & Berg, 2003). This debunked the belief that hands-free cell phones were safer for drivers than hand held devices.
In their 2012 research, Ellen Anderson, Chelsea Bierman, Julian Franko and Amy Zelko of the University of Wisconsin considered the effects of texting, holding a conversation and listening to loud music while driving. They found that texting had the highest effect on reaction time and heart beat rate while engaging in a conversation affected reaction time and systolic blood pressure (Anderson, Bierman, Frank and Zelko 2012). Listening to loud music was determined to have little impact in these areas for drivers(Anderson, Bierman, Frank and Zelko 2012). The cause of these effects was an increased cognitive load involved in the two first tasks compared to the last task(Anderson, Bierman, Frank and Zelko 2012). Texting and holding an actual conversation both require a person’s attention and input, causing for them to lose concentration on the primary task of driving(Anderson, Bierman, Frank and Zelko 2012). Listening to loud music, on its part, while it required some levels of attention, requires no engagement on the part of the driver, thus having no effect on their cognitive function and thus reaction time(Anderson, Bierman, Frank and Zelko 2012).