The invention of cell phones allowed people to have a constant connection to their family, friends, and colleagues. Later, smartphones became the norm, and this connection expanded to include the Internet and all ways of communication enabled by it. It was only a matter of time until using a cell phone while driving would prove to be extremely dangerous. This paper will show how the use of cell phones while driving leads to dangerous driving and possible fatalities on the road.
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Text messaging while driving is one of the most common instances of cell phone misuse. It has already been proven to be a dangerous activity that can lead to distracted and careless driving. Accidents caused by texting and driving are common and can end in fatalities. A meta-analysis of research on texting and driving has found that reading and writing text messages on cell phones have a consistently adverse effect on the safety of driving. The act of texting provides a considerable visual, cognitive and physical distraction to the driver and should be avoided (Caird, Johnston, Willness, Asbridge, & Steel, 2014).
A variety of alternative solutions to texting and driving have been proposed and implemented such as voice-assisted typing, which allows the driver to say the message out loud instead of typing it, or augmented reality texting through devices such as Google Glass (He, Choi, McCarley, Chaparro, & Wang, 2015). Neither are perfect solutions, however, as they still provide a level of distraction that could cause accidents on the road.
A slightly less dangerous activity that drivers engage in on their cell phones is also the oldest one. Drivers have been able to take and make phone calls from their cars since the invention of the car phone. While originally it was a luxury feature, with time more options have enabled ordinary people with the same activity. Due to the long history of the activity, a larger body of research has been gathered on the issue. Besides the direct use of the phone, activities such as hands-free talking have been examined, as well as talking while using the technologies integrated into the car itself.
The results vary between different research papers and methods of cell phone use. Some papers show a clear adverse effect not only on the driver’s awareness of the road but on the driver’s awareness of the quality of their driving. People whose driving while talking were tested in a simulated environment have experienced a significant number of accidents but afterward provided a completely inaccurate assessment of their driving.
Multitasking of any kind in the process of driving should rarely be done rarely and with caution (Sanbonmatsu, Strayer, Biondi, Behrends, & Moore, 2015). However, some researchers find this issue less prominent. A different paper found that after analyzing the phone activity of the drivers who utilized various methods of cell phone communication, the correlation between near-accident situations and phone activity was not so direct.
A more surprising discovery from the same paper claimed that the observed drivers actually spend less time looking at the road when using vehicle-mounted hands-free cell phone calling than hand-held phone users. The results indicated that the adverse effects on the drivers were limited (Fitch et al., 2013). Nevertheless, the issue has not been resolved, and it is likely that it will go on in the near future.
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Lastly, one of the less-discussed aspects of this topic is the increased use of cell phones while driving by people with symptoms of ADHD. Aside from the previously discussed negative effects of texting and talking on the phone, people with ADHD symptoms have shown a greater propensity for using social media sites while driving. Reduced self-esteem and increased stress are often caused by the symptoms of ADHD, which leads to a craving for social media use.
The symptoms can have an effect on the person at any time, and this includes the moments when the person is driving. The practice of using social media sites while driving has been assumed to be a problem among people with ADHD symptoms even before any research on the matter was conducted. Unfortunately, the research has shown that the frequency of this activity may be much higher than it was previously considered. The use of social network sites is viewed as compulsory reward-seeking behavior, and therefore, a solution to mediate the issue should be found (Turel & Bechara, 2016).
The use of cell phones while driving in all aspects should be considered a dangerous activity. The currently devised technologies to sidestep its distracting effects have shown to be less than effective in keeping the driver’s attention on the road. Also, the increased danger of cell phone use for social media sites by people who do so compulsory should be given a larger degree of attention, as the research on the matter is relatively thin. Therefore, further research on the topic of cell phone use during driving should be focused on possible novel techniques that could either allow cell phone use with negligible loss of attention, or ways of preventing cell phone use all together.
Caird, J., Johnston, K., Willness, C., Asbridge, M., & Steel, P. (2014). A meta-analysis of the effects of texting on driving. Accident Analysis & Prevention, 71, 311-318.
Fitch, G., Soccolich, S., Guo, F., McClafferty, J., Fang, Y., Olson, R., … Dingus T. (2013). The impact of hand-held and hands-free cell phone use on driving performance and safety-critical event risk. Web.
He, J., Choi, W., McCarley, J., Chaparro, B., & Wang, C. (2015). Texting while driving using Google Glass™: Promising but not distraction-free. Accident Analysis & Prevention, 81, 218-229.
Sanbonmatsu, D., Strayer, D., Biondi, F., Behrends, A., & Moore, S. (2015). Cell-phone use diminishes self-awareness of impaired driving. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 23(2), 617-623.
Turel, O., & Bechara, A. (2016). Social networking site use while driving: ADHD and the mediating roles of stress, self-esteem and craving. Frontiers in Psychology, 7, 1-10.