Not safe to talk with someone while you drive

Talking on a cell phone or to a passenger while driving affects one's performance behind the wheel, a new study has confirmed.

Washington: Talking on a cell phone or to a passenger while driving affects one's performance behind the wheel, a new study has confirmed.

But it has also showed that the danger of collision or accident is less if that passenger happens to be one with driving experience or is an active driver himself. Also, when the one talking to the driver is using videophone on which he can observe the driving scene out of the windshield.

Nonetheless, talking to someone while driving causes distraction from overall safety and enhances chances of collision, the study has said.

"We have done years of study on driver distraction, and previous studies suggest that passengers

often are not distracting. In fact, passengers can be helpful, especially if they're adults who have had experience and also are active drivers themselves," said Arthur Kramer, psychology professor from University of Illinois in the US.

For their study, four driving scenarios were set up using a simulator and videophone: A driver alone in the simulator, a driver speaking to a passenger in the simulator, a driver speaking on a hands-free cell phone to someone in a remote location, and a driver speaking on a hands-free cell phone to someone in a remote location who could see the driver and observe the driving scene out of the windshield via videophone.

Driving alone was the safest option, the researchers found, in line with previous research. Passengers helped drivers find their exits and improved the memory of road signs, but they detracted from overall safety.

Speaking to someone on a cell phone while driving was the most dangerous of the conditions.

"Drivers were less likely to be involved in a collision when their remote partner could see what they were seeing," noted John Gaspar from the University of Illinois.

"Conversations with a partner on the videophone were very similar to conversations with a passenger," he said.

Talking to someone who had no awareness of what was going on inside or outside the car more than tripled the likelihood of a collision, the researchers found.

"The findings demonstrate that a passenger or conversation partner can contribute significantly to the safety of the driving experience," concluded Kramer.