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Word Count: 426
Research has shown that use of cellular phones does not interfere significantly with the ability to control an automobile except among the elderly where potentially dangerous lane excursions can occur However the effect of cellular phones as a possible distraction has not been investigated In this study 151 subjects observed a 25-minute video driving sequence containing 47 situations to which drivers would be expected to respond by manipulation of the vehicles controls Each situation occurred equally often under five conditions of distraction placing a cellular phone call carrying on a simple cellular phone conversation carrying on a complex cellular phone conversation tuning a radio and no distraction ie none of the preceding The radio tuning task was included simply to provide a familiar benchmark The degree of distraction was measured by comparing responses under each distraction with those occurring in the absence of any distraction Response was measured in terms of both whether the subject responded and how long it took with a time penalty for those who did not respond at all All of the distractions led to significant increases in both the number of situations to which subjects failed to respond and the time it took to respond to them Complex phone conversations created the greatest distraction and simple conversations the least with tuning the radio falling in between Placing a phone call was no more deleterious than a simple conversation in causing situations to go unnoticed but delayed responses to about the same degree as did complex calls Relative increase in chances of a highway-traffic situation going unnoticed ranged from approximately 20 for placing a call in simple conversations to 29 for complex conversations The effect of cellular phone use upon response to highway-traffic situations was the most deleterious for the older age group ie 50-80 Overall the increase in likelihood that some highway-traffic situation will go unnoticed while calling or conversing on a cellular phone
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