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Cell Phones Instantly Age Teen Drivers

Cell Phones Instantly Age Teen Drivers

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Samantha Hayes Reporting Young drivers think it's no problem to drive and talk on a cell phone at the same time, but not everyone agrees. In fact, a new local study says a young driver with a cell phone has the same reaction time as an elderly person behind the wheel.

You probably know some people who can do two things at once pretty well. But when it comes to driving and talking on the cell phone, researchers from the University of Utah say it doesn't matter if the phone is hand-held or hands-free.

Lots of people- its estimated 100 million- talk and drive at the same time. Many of us think its just a matter of multi-tasking, maneuvering traffic and a conversation at the same time. It's hard to see what's going on when you are so busy listening to what's going on.

David Strayer at the University of Utah says it all has to do with reaction time. In his newly published study, young driver--18-25 year olds--on cell phones-drove like their grandparents.

David Strayer: “An instant way of kind of almost aging some of our younger drivers so their reactions are about the same as an older driver.”

We tried the experiment with KSL intern Brooke Walker while she tried to drive through snow, fog, and dark conditions in the simulator. We talked to her about her weekend.

David Strayer: “We've been able to show they are simply not attending to the information on a driving scene.”

Researchers found that cell phone conversations are a unique kind of distraction, different than listening to the radio, eating a meal, or even talking to the person beside you.”

David Strayer: “The mind simply is not processing information where the eyes are looking.”

Strayer's research also shows when your reaction time is under the influence of a cellphone conversation...

David Strayer: “Cell phone drivers had more accidents. Their reactions were more impaired, slower than the drunk driver.”

The 65-74 year olds tested also drive worse with cell phones, but researchers say not as bad a expected. The study is in this winter's issue of Human Factors.

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