Time to start peeling those "hang up and drive" stickers off your bumper. Researchers at the University of Kansas conducted a study that showed driving and yakking on the phone can be useful in keeping drivers focused.
OK, so this headline might be a bit overzealous. But the study shows that if you're on a particularly boring drive, like, say, in Kansas, chatting on the phone can make you more alert and help you remember road signs better. The 16-year-olds were kinda right the whole time!
From a university news release
"The takeaway message is that it's almost always dangerous to talk onAtchley and cognitive psychology graduate student Mark Chan put subjects
the phone and drive, but there might be some limited situations where
cellular technology can improve safety," said researcher Paul Atchley,
associate professor of psychology at KU.
into a driving simulator to emulate a 30-minute cruise down a flat boring
road without any turns. They avoided other cars and stayed in their lane, remembered
street signs, and a few other safe driving procedures. And their data
indicated the opposite of what we've always been told.
The researchers found that talking on the phone in the final stages
of a tedious drive actually enhanced drivers' skills at these road
"If you're a very fatigued driver, talking to someone on the
phone may actually improve your performance," Atchley said. "In other
words, if you're going to fall asleep and you can't pull over, talking
to someone on the phone my help keep you on the road."
According to the KU researcher, performing a secondary task could
boost mental stimulation overall and help a driver keep focus on the
"We currently think it's just general arousal," said Atchley. "A
conversation is an active task. A radio program is not going to be as
effective as an active conversation. You are engaging in an active task
and there's psychological arousal, so we think that has some benefit for
So there you have it. Never, ever talk on the phone while driving, because it is super dangerous. Unless
you're really bored and tired, in which case, smart dialing.
Photo by Ed Brown.