Motorists on mobiles as bad as drunk driversNew study recommends complete mobile ban

30 June 2006

Chatting on your mobile phone while driving is as dangerous as drink driving, according to a new US study.

Researchers at the University of Utah in America studied 40 motorists as they followed a 'virtual' car in a driving simulator which was programmed to brake at random.

In the UK motorists can use hands-free phones while driving but the study found that hands-free phones were just as distracting as handheld phones. The study says the government should now consider banning drivers from using any type of mobile phone while at the wheel.

In the study each of the 40 motorists had to drive the simulator four times - once while not distracted, once using a mobile phone, another time using a hands-free phone and once while intoxicated.

Assistant professor of psychology Frank Drews, the study's co-author, said: 'We found that people are as impaired when they drive and talk on a cell phone as they are when they drive intoxicated at the legal blood-alcohol limit.'

Driving while drunk

'It means that driving while talking on a cell phone is as bad as or maybe worse than driving drunk, which is completely unacceptable and cannot be tolerated by society.'

Both handheld and hands-free phones impaired driving, with no significant difference in the degree of impairment.

The study found that motorists who talked on either handheld or hands-free phones drove slightly slower than drivers who weren't distracted, were 9 per cent slower to hit the brakes, were 19 per cent slower to resume normal speed after braking and were more likely to crash.

Three study participants crashed into the back of the car in front of them while talking on phones.

The study concluded: 'Impairments associated with using a cell phone while driving can be as profound as those associated with driving while drunk.'