I recently read an article on cell phone usage while driving and I think I figured out part of the why cell phones and driving don’t go well together.
First, the difference between holding the phone and the hands free set.
Driving with the hands free set allows both hands for the wheel. This most closely emulates having a person in the car with you. I even notice a concentration difference between having the set on my right ear (easier) and my left ear(seems harder) probably because I am more used to having the passenger on my right side.
As for hand-holding the phone, I think this shifts your focus from the steering wheel and driving to your phone and the conversation. I seem to “loose” where I am at much more often with the phone in hand.
Needless to say, I try hard to not drive hand holding the phone, but when I need directions, I find that I miss turns more often and have a harder time reading the road signs with the phone in hand then with a hands free set.
Now as for why having a passenger is better. I think the reason is the passenger is participatory with the driving. The report even mentions that the conversation switches to current the traffic twice as frequently with the passengers then when on the phone. I also believe that passengers help navigate. I know I ask my passengers to play an active role in navigation when I am driving to a new location.
For example, I was talking to Katie tonight on the phone on my way home from some friends’ house. Traffic was pretty bad (probably post Superbowl traffic) and it was wet and rainy. I shifted focus from my conversation to completely focus on the road while navigation my exit. Katie kept talking, oblivious that I had tuned her out. If she had been in the car, she would have noticed and paused the conversation until I was through the intersection. I think this example shows how phone conversations while driving can be distracting.
What do you think?