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Might be a physiological factor at work, too

Cell phones distract in different ways. The well known way is by taking the driver’s attention off the road. There may be another way, according to studies. Rats that had reliably learned to swim a water maze and successfully find an underwater platform (in opaque, milky water) to land on, were then exposed to cell phone radiation for a brief period. When they were returned to the maze, they were much more confused about where the (unmoved) underwater platform was and had to try harder to find it. It appeared that memory, attention and orientation had been affected. A control group operating under the same conditions, except without the cell phone exposure, had no trouble finding the platform when they were returned to the maze.

“It appeared that memory, attention and orientation had been affected.”

Those areas are affected by mental illness as well. I’m of the belief that bad drivers are mentally ill, in a way, because they do things that would distract them when a normal person would instantly recognize that behavior as dangerous.

Do humans have a strong need to be ‘connected’ to someone else at all times? I made that assertion here some time ago and found myself being included among those in need. But I have been in public restrooms and heard men talking on cell phones while taking care of their business. And in a movie theatre recentlty there were young adults texting non stop for the 90+ minutes. It would seen that there is nothing worthwhile in their life unless someone at the other end of the conversation acknowledges them.

The 1/2 watt radio signal from cell phones would likely affect a 3 ounce rat a bit more than a 140 lb human.

I wouldn’t put much stock in this study much like studies from the 70’s that showed milk, coffee, red dye # 2, cyclamates or a dozen other things gave rats cancer when you inject them with an ounce of the substance.

Airplane pilots fly with while talking on the radio all the time as do race car drivers. It can be a learned skill but the 2 examples I’ve given are “Hands Free.” Why won’t people buy hands free devices? They are cheap and work well.

What was the wattage of the cell phone radiation to which the rats were exposed?

@meran, do you have a link to the actual study? This sounds like either an Internet myth or junk science. But I will keep an open mond if you can point to an actual, credible study.

That’s probably what OP is referring to. Of note is that the rats were exposed radiation from an actual cell phone for 2 hours. To get an equivalent dose for a human would probably require extra batteries :wink: .

At any rate, most people use hands-free devices to gab on the phone now, so you’re not holding the phone right up to your head.

I worry most about inattentional blindness. I don’t think most of us are fully aware of our own limits as drivers & as human beings. Everyone thinks they can multitask & neither activity suffers. Everyone thinks that they can see something right in front of them and react to it. But the brain does funky things with attention & focus (have you seen that basketball game video? ever heard of Apollo Robbins?) so I don’t willingly take any chances by assuming anything about the limits of human vision, attention & focus. People can be staring right at a scene and not see something that they appear to be looking straight at. Even looking for a street sign or address can be a dangerous distraction. “Watching” the road and having both hands on the wheel are not enough.

that basketball game video?

You mean this one?

I won’t spoil the fun for people who haven’t seen it, but I will point out that in that video you are asked to perform a specific focal task that requires intense concentration. Chatting to your wife on the phone does not require that kind of attention, so the idea that people cannot do more than one thing at once is not disproven by this video.

I would argue that driving requires less focused multi-attentions: I do not have to count how many white cars I see while I’m driving. I don’t have to remember what that count is. Driving is an exercise in wide-band attention - I need to absorb all of the relevant information available (relevant meaning "That car is approaching the stop sign, watch it to be sure it stops, that kid is trying to catch a ball, if he misses he might dart out in front of me, that other car might change lanes) while dismissing the irrelevant information (that car is red, that kid is cute, that other car is a Toyota). That’s a very different mental exercise than "track one specific item carefully in a fast-changing moving scene with intentional distractions and remember how many times it gets passed:

And yes, I’ve seen Apollo Robbins many times – but again, that involves intentional misdirection, which doesn’t really correlate to driving very well.

Yes, when we drive we are already multitasking given the many, many unavoidable distractions that driving presents us with. I prefer not to add into that mix whatever thing it is that someone might call or text to tell me, whether it’s that my home got broken into or to ask whether we need milk at home. Either of those examples would distract my thought and focus it on something other that driving. That level of distraction, even if my hands are on the wheel and I’m staring straight ahead, is not something I’m willing to add into my daily driving adventures. Other people think it’s fine to talk on the phone while driving; I personally do not think that is OK, and if I find out someone is driving while they are talking to me then I tell them to please call me back.

I’ve unknowingly been on the receiving end of calls from 2 people who were driving and got into fender benders while they were on the phone with me. It’s no fun to have the person you are talking to get into an accident.