Thursday, May 31, 2012

Anticipation Of Calls Or Messages Leads To Car Crashes

Mobile phones have been around for years now, and drivers ought to be well aware of the dangers of using one whilst driving. However, most of us don't switch our phones off while we are in the car and new research has shown that merely expecting a call or text to arrive can mean your attention is distracted from the road. Less attention on the road is often the first step to a car crash.
Young people are the worst offenders for mobile phone use while driving; particularly those who own an iPhone or a BlackBerry. This trend has led researchers at the University of Washington in America to look into the different ways compulsive mobile phone use could be contributing to car crashes.
Using a sample of 384 students, researchers used a Cell Phone Overuse Scale (CPOS) to assess four different aspects of mobile phone use that can be dangerous. The CPOS has 24 points covering four characteristics of excessive moble phone use: frequently anticipating calls/messages, interfering with normal activities, having a strong emotional reaction to the mobile, and recognising problem use.
The students in the sample participated in an anonymous survey online featuring questions about driving history including any previous crashes they have experienced while driving, as well as questions to assess how risky their behaviours and a psychological profile.
While it may seem obvious that taking your eyes off the road or your hands off the wheel increases the risk of causing an accident, the research showed that in particular, a higher score for anticipating a call or a text had a significant association with a higher number of previous crashes.
This shows that the distraction caused by mobile phone use in the car isn't solely a direct result of actual calls or texts. The relationship between young drivers and their mobile phones is more complex than that. A switched on mobile phone in the car can, for people who are particularly 'addicted' to using their devices, cause the driver to be wondering if or when they will receive a call, message or notification from a social networking site.
The students with higher scores on the CPOS also were more likely to have had a previous car crash. In fact, an increase of one point on the CPOS, was linked to an increase of approximately 1 per cent in the number of previous crashes the driver was involved in.
This research will naturally lead to further investigation into how mobile phones affect drivers' focus, but in the meantime it is further encouragement that drivers should switch their phone off when they get in the car. It should be as automatic as putting on your seatbelt and switching the car's lights on at night. This is another area where education, of young drivers in particular, needs to be improved. Young drivers seem to lack knowledge in certain areas such as safety and regular car maintenance; whether we are talking about checking your car tyres or turning your mobile phone off, education is key.

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