From The Ergoweb® Learning Center

California Governor Bans Teens from Cell Phone Use While Driving

A law signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on September 13 bans teens from using a cell phone and other electronic devices while driving. The aim is to help the young drivers keep their attention on the road. Teens were targeted because of their predilection for sending text messages while driving – multitasking in one of its riskier forms. From an ergonomics point of view, even using the phone for a regular voice call is one task too many for a driver.

"The simple fact is that teenage drivers are more easily distracted. They are young, inexperienced and have a slower reaction time," Gov. Schwarzenegger said in a statement after he signed the legislation into law. "We want to eliminate any extra distractions so they can focus on paying attention to the road and being good drivers."

An Associated Press report on the statement noted that California joins 15 states and the District of Columbia in banning the use of the wireless devices for teen drivers. Statistics by the California Highway Patrol indicate that driver cell phone use is a primary cause of accidents. It cited a Ford Motor Co. study that found teens are four times more likely to be distracted than adults by cell phone use.

Recent neurological research explains why the brain is not suited to driving and using a cell phone at the same time. Neuroscientists Paul E. Dux, Ph.D., and René Marois, Ph.D., of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, found that when it comes to handling two things at once the brain is fast but not fast enough. Their findings were published in the December 21, 2006, issue of the neurology journal, Neuron, and also reported in a press release from the university.

"While we are driving, we are bombarded with visual information. We might also be talking to passengers or talking on the phone," said Marois, Associate Professor of Psychology at Vanderbilt. "Our new research offers neurological evidence that the brain cannot effectively do two things at once. People think if they are using a headset with their cell phone while driving they are safe, but they’re not because they are still doing two cognitively demanding tasks at once."

The idea of a central bottleneck in the brain that prevents us from doing two things at once is not new, but Dux, a research associate in the Psychology Department, and Marois are the first to offer supporting neurological evidence.

Sources: Associated Press; Vanderbilt University