CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Driving
with one hand on the wheel and another on a cell phone has led to legal
restrictions and proposals to require drivers to use hands-free phones.
Researchers at the University
of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have tested the
hands-free approach and found that drivers — young and old — struggled to see
dangerous scenarios appearing in front of them.
The experiments, reported in the Fall 2004 issue of the journal Human Factors,
were conducted in a virtual reality suite at the Beckman Institute for Advanced
Science and Technology. Eye-tracking techniques allowed researchers to see the
effects of distractions.
"With younger adults, everything got worse," said Arthur F. Kramer,
a professor of psychology. "What we found was that both young adults and
older adults tended to show deficits in performance. They made more errors in
detecting important changes and they took longer to react to the changes." The
impaired reactions, he said, were "in terms of seconds, not just milliseconds,
which means many yards in terms of stopping distances."
Univ. of Illinois Press Release via Eureka Alert