Research Breaks Distractions Down By Category

Posted on July 26, 2013

Recently, research out of the University of Utah revealed that hands-free cellphone usage at the wheel could actually be as dangerous or even more dangerous as using one’s hands to manually manipulate a cellphone.  The study was widely featured in news outlets around the country, but a new report delves further into the scale that researchers used to rank distractions, and in so doing, it provides great insights into what activities drivers should be avoiding at all costs.

The smallest distractions were ranked as a Category 1.  If a driver had no aural, mental, or visual distractions of any kind, that would act as the lowest form of distraction.  Other Category 1 activities included listening to either the radio or to a book on tape, as the distraction potential for each activity was deemed minimal.

The Category 2 activities, as judged by researchers, largely revolved around various means of communication.  Having a hands-free conversation was shown to take 227% as much mental acuity as driving without distraction at all.  Right behind that was having a discussion with a passenger, and a handheld phone conversation was right on its heels.

More dangerous was the usage of a Speech to Text Application, which clocked in as a Category 3.  The worry is that people have to constantly check the text message and verify that their voice was recorded correctly.

Researchers used the act of solving math problems as a benchmark for the most distracting end of the spectrum.

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