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Cell phone users drive like old folks

other half. Only hands-free phones were used to eliminate any possible distraction from manipulating a hand-held cell phone.

Thirty times each second, the simulator measured the participants' driving speed, following distance and if applicable how long it took them to hit the brakes and how long it took them to regain speed. Those factors "have been shown to affect the likelihood and severity of rear-end collisions," Strayer and Drews wrote.

The Findings: Age and Cell Phone Use Impair Drivers

The study found that:

-- Compared with young drivers, older drivers were slower to hit the brakes when needed, tended to hit the brakes twice, took longer to regain speed and had a greater following distance. This was true when young and old participants drove with or without cell phones.

-- Compared with drivers who did not talk on cell phones, those who used a cell phone while driving were slower to hit the brakes, had a longer following distance and took longer to regain speed . This was true of both young and old drivers. "Once drivers on cell phones hit the brakes, it takes them longer to get back into the normal flow of traffic," Strayer says. "The net result is they are impeding the overall flow of traffic."

-- When young drivers used cell phones, the reaction time in hitting the brakes slowed to match that of elderly drivers who did not talk on cell phones, namely, an average of 912 milliseconds, or a bit more than nine-tenths of a second. When not talking on cell phones, young motorists hit the brakes within an average of 780 milliseconds, or almost eight-tenths of a second. The difference may seem small, but represents a 17 percent slower reaction time. Strayer says other studies have shown that much of a decrease in reaction time increases both the likelihood and severity of accidents.

-- When elderly drivers used cell phones, their reaction times got worse, but not as bad as had been ex
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1-Feb-2005


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