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Cellular phones affect driving ability, study finds

Date Posted: 1998-03-28

On March 19, Japan's National Professional Police Agency released a study showing how cellular phones may affect driving abilities and the results may cause some people to change their habits. Some obvious findings were that cell phones distracted drivers and drivers tended to drift into other lanes while dialing, answering or talking on the phones, but the research showed other hidden problems as well.

Fifty students were used as test drivers for the road study, conducted at a test course in Ibaragi Prefecture. The study found that it takes 1.9 seconds to pick up a cell phone, compared to just 1.05 seconds used when switching radio stations or turning on the radio.

They also discovered that while it takes little more than one second to brake, those who are holding a car phone while breaking increase this time by more than 50%. Drives also tends to include more braking while using a cell phone, most likely due to the fact that drivers are less observant while talking on their cell phones.

The National Professional Police Agency is contemplating beginning a campaign to have the slogan "Don't drive when you're using your cell phone" printed in calendars and used on other items around homes and offices.

University professors and auto safety centers sponsored the study. The research began with automobile accidents in August of 1997 and continued until early this year. One startling discovery was that of the thousands of traffic-related accidents which occurred in Japan in 1997, 3,353 were contributed to cellular phone use. It is hard to say how many accidents were avoided as distracted drivers turned their attention back to the road and prevented tragedies just in the list of time.

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