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It has been an issue for cell phones became a commonplace in society that talking about one while driving is extremely unsafe, but recent research has shown that if the person you are talking to can see the road from your viewpoint, it can markedly improve performance compared to conversations where they cannot.
For years research has suggested that passengers, while being deemed as distractions to drivers, can actually prove to be helpful to the driver, especially if the passenger is an experienced driver.
Beckman Institute director and University of Illinois psychology professor Arthur Kramer led a research team to determine the true distraction to drivers and the varying degrees of harm forms of communication affect performance.
For the study, they set up three groups of college-age participants who were subject to different forms of distraction through verbal communication while driving in a simulation involving unpredictable cars.
The three test groups consisting of a driver with a passenger, a driver talking on a hands-free device, and driver communicating with someone verbally who could see from the driver's viewpoint.
The last group was a control group with only a driver in the simulation with no distractions.
The participants were graded on how well they maintained their distance from other cars, their speed, how effectively, they found and used in the designated exit, and whether or not they had any collisions.
Unsurprisingly, driving alone proved to be the safest option of the 4 groups.
While passengers help keep track of road conditions, exits, and some traffic they did not, however aid in the accident prevention and in some cases led to them.
Cell phone conversations with someone with no knowledge of the driver’s viewpoint inside or outside the vehicle were significantly more dangerous.
Traffic accidents tripled compared to the control group of a driver silently driving alone.
Drivers who held conversations with callers who shared the same viewpoint inside and outside the vehicle displayed interesting results.
These drivers were less likely to have a collision than those whose cell phone partner couldn't see what we’re going on.
Researchers noted that the conversation was affected by the current road and traffic conditions while the driver and the cell phone participant talked and shared characteristics with those in the passenger group.
Both groups showed that they aid the driver with some aspects of safer driving, but ultimately are less safe than driving alone, but significantly more safe than talking to someone who has no viewpoint on the road and traffic.
With accidents reduced by 40-50% just by having the other person on the phone being able to see what is going on, products like Google Glass could allow for shared viewpoint driving in the not so distant future.