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Study Examines Why Cell Phone Conversations are More Distracting than In-Person Ones

Published on Apr 8, 2013 at 8:00 am in Distracted Driving Accident.

As distracted driving accidents involving cell phone use continue to claim lives and cause serious injuries on U.S. roads, many organizations, including the National Safety Council (NSC), have begun researching why cell phones, in particular, seem to increase the risk of accidents.  If talking on a cell phone – whether handheld or hands-free – increases a driver’s risk of an accident by 37 percent, does talking to passengers in the vehicle pose the same risk?

The answer, according to some studies, is no.  While in-vehicle conversations do increase distraction, any increase in accident risks is much smaller than the increase in risk caused by cell phone conversations.  Researchers hypothesize that there are several possible reasons for this difference:

  • In-car conversation partners can help you drive. While examining in-vehicle conversations, researchers found that passengers engaged in the conversation were often watching the road as well, especially if they were older teens or adults. Passengers were able to navigate, point out upcoming turns or exits, and comment on or warn of hazards, all of which helped the driver.
  • In-car conversation partners know when to be quiet. Passengers can see when driving becomes more demanding: when traffic gets heavy, for instance, or when heavy snow or rain makes it difficult to see.  Most passengers tend to modulate or suppress conversation in these conditions.  On a cell phone, however, a conversation partner can’t see what the driver is facing, which means that conversation continues regardless of road conditions.
  • In-person conversation rules are different. Drivers can delay a conversation response while they navigate a dangerous bit of roadway when they’re talking to another person in the vehicle, and the other person can see the driver is concentrating.  On a cell phone, however, not responding may be seen as rude.

If you’ve been in a distracted driving accident, a Kentucky car accident lawyer can help you understand and protect your legal rights.