Distracted driving kills. Whether you're texting, talking on the phone or putting an address into the navigation app, your attention isn't on the road where it should be, and that puts you and those around you in danger.
Hopefully, you believe that and keep your phone in your purse, dashboard cubby hole or somewhere else that isn't in front of your face. Unfortunately, new research shows that might not be enough.
Even when you aren't using your phone, it's working in the background to receive texts, update apps, get the news and whatever else you've told it to do. When something happens, it gives off an audible notification or vibrates to let you know there's something for you to look at.
Three researchers at Florida State University wondered how much of a distraction that alert is, so they did a study. What they found is very serious.
The researchers got 150 students and had them take a test that measures "sustained attentional performance." Basically, the participants sat at a computer and tapped a key every time a digit on the screen changed.
The students took the test twice, the first time uninterrupted and the second time with someone calling or texting their phone. Even though the students didn't actually pick up their phone, the call ringing or notification alert made them do worse on the test.
How much worse? The researchers said the impact was just as bad as if the students had been actively using the phone. It didn't matter if the interruption was a long ring or a short beep, either. Just knowing there was something to look at was a distraction.
I tend to agree with that conclusion. If I'm doing something and my phone buzzes (I usually keep it on vibrate), my immediate reaction is to look and see what's going on.
When I'm driving, even though I don't look, wondering who texted or called does seem to occupy part of my mind. Of course, I didn't really think about the danger of that until I saw this study.
The simple solution while you're driving is to switch your phone into Airplane mode. That cuts off all its signals and makes sure you won't get any notifications. I know I plan to do that from now on.
Do you find that getting a notification on your phone is enough to distract you? Let me know in the comments.