Are women better at multi-tasking than men?


Urban legend suggests that women are better at multi-tasking than men. This idea is bolstered, in part, by anthropologists who suggest that in hunter/gather times women were required to take care of many things at once (watch the children, gather food, prepare and cook meals, etc.) whereas men te...


2010 Pulitzer Prize awarded for national reporting on driver distraction


The 2010 Pulitzer Prize for national reporting was awarded to Matt Richtel and members of the New York Times Staff “for his incisive work on the hazardous use of cell phones, computers and other devices while operating cars and trucks”. Mr. Richtel’s reporting represents, in my opinion, inv...


A Case of Amnesia?


So just how many crashes are caused by drivers using a cell phone? This turns out to be a more difficult question to answer than you might think. There are some cases where it is obvious. I’ve seen autopsy photos where the deceased driver was still gripping their cell phone. There are other ...


Are all conversations are harmful?


Hopefully by now you realize that driving and talking on a cell phone is a hazardous.  But, what about talking to a passenger in the vehicle?  In both cases the driver is engaged in a conversation.  Do conversations with the passenger impair the driver as much as conversations on a cell phone? ...


Can you hear the train?


This is a true story that illustrates just how “tuned out” someone can become when they are talking on a cell phone. I’ve changed the names of those involved. John was excited to take a group of co-workers on a weekend fishing trip.  He picked up his friends on Friday after work and they d...


Are you a Supertasker?


My colleague Jason Watson and I have been searching for people who have extraordinary multi-tasking ability. In a series of studies, we rigorously tested over 500 drivers between the ages of 18 and 45 in our driving simulator facility to see if anyone could talk on a hands-free cell phone without i...


On Nanny State Legislation


Texting while driving is dangerous.  The odds of crashing are 8 times higher than driving without distraction.  That’s worse than the crash risk for drivers intoxicated by alcohol at the legal limit!  Despite the blatantly obvious impairments from text messaging, less than half of states have l...


Traffic Jam


Damn this traffic jam, how I hate to be late, it hurts my motor to go so slow. Damn this traffic jam, time I get home my supper'll be cold, damn this traffic jam. Well I left my job about 5 o'clock, it took fifteen minutes go three blocks, Just in time to stand in line with a freeway looking like ...


This is your brain on a cell-phone...


What's happening to your brain that makes cell phones create all that havoc on the roadway? Cognitive neuroscientists are using a variety of cutting edge technologies to understand brain functioning.   One way to study the neural basis of attention is by attaching electrodes to the scalp (don’t ...


A simple way to study driver distraction


Is distracted driving a problem in your community? I’m often contacted by students asking for advice on how to study the effects of cell phones on drivers in their neighborhood. This blog describes a simple way to study driver distraction. There are several methods for studying driver distracti...


Studying the obvious


Some have accused us of studying the obvious.  In our defense, I would note that what might seem to be obvious might not be true. Case in point: Six state legislatures have passed laws that prohibit using hand held cell phones while driving, but permitting the use of hands free devices (a seemingly...


Did you see that clown!


This is a post about inattention blindness, cell phones, and a clown riding a unicycle.  First a little background and then on to the clown... Researchers have known for over 100 years that it takes attention to process the visual world.  Just because you look at something doesn't ensure that you...


Hype or cause for concern?


These days driver distraction is in the news on a regular basis. But distracted driving has been around since automobiles have been on the road, so why the increase in media attention?  Is it just hype or is it cause for concern? The chart below, obtained from Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MAD...


Do cell phone laws make the roads any safer?


Every state legislature has considered regulations that would prohibit the use of cell phones while driving. Several have enacted laws that prohibit drivers from using hand-held cell phones but allow drivers to use hands-free devices. Will these laws make the roads any safer? In January of 2010,...


And this just in...


A new study from researchers at the University of Illinois @ Urbana-Champaign is helping to better understand why cell phones and driving do not mix. The study used an advanced driving simulator and had volunteers listen to and then retell novel stories over a hands-free cell phone. In one conditi...