Chatty drivers add to commuter hell

3 Jan 2008

Do you chat on your mobile phone when stuck in a tailback? As it turns out, this delays traffic even more, according to a study by David Strayer, a psychology professor at the University of Utah in the US.

Strayer’s study found that individuals who talked on the phone while driving not only had a tendency to drive more slowly but were more likely to stay behind slow-moving traffic than overtake the driver ahead.

These multitasking motorists tend to drive on average two miles per hour slower than fellow commuters, failing to keep up with the average traffic flow.

In fact, the study calculated that these drivers add about 20 hours a year onto the total road time clocked by the average US commuter.

However, this study was undertaken using students in a simulated driving environment as opposed to raw data taken from actual drivers.

Here in Ireland, using a handheld mobile phone while driving is illegal, while a handsfree is acceptable. However, Strayer’s study indicates that the very act of having a conversation while driving, whether hands-free or not, can ‘overload’ the brain, hence the slower driving.

A study published by the British Medical Journal in 2005 appears to back up the theory that hands-free devices are no different. It found that car crashes were four times more likely to occur within a 10-minute window of mobile phone use.

By Marie Boran