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Driving Skills with Cell Phone Use Similar to Driving Drunk

But drunk drivers tailgate and drive more aggressively than cell phone users

FRIDAY, July 7 (HealthDay News) -- Driving while using a cell phone is as hazardous in some ways as driving after drinking alcohol, according to a report in the Summer 2006 issue of the journal Human Factors.

David L. Strayer, Ph.D., of the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, and colleagues used a driving simulator to compare the driving ability of cell phone users with that of subjects with blood alcohol levels at the legal limit of 0.08 percent.

The researchers found that drivers talking on hand-held or hands-free cell phones were slower to put on the brakes and had more accidents than when they did not use cell phones while driving. At the same time, subjects who had consumed alcohol tended to drive more aggressively, used more force to apply the brakes, and followed the car ahead of them more closely than cell phone users, the report indicates.

"When driving conditions and time on task were controlled for, the impairments associated with using a cell phone while driving can be as profound as those associated with driving while drunk," the authors write. "This research may help to provide guidance for regulation addressing driver distraction caused by cell phone conversations."

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