Anticipating SMSes, calls too contribute to car crashes

April 30th, 2012 - 1:29 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, April 30 (IANS) Anticipating calls or text messages too while driving may contribute to car crashes, says a new study which explores how cell phone use is responsible for distracted driving.

Jennifer M. Whitehill, post-doctoral fellow at the Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center, (HIPRC) University of Washington, and her colleagues sought to determine whether compulsive cell phone use is linked with motor vehicle crashes.

“This study suggests that thinking about future cell phone calls and messages may be an additional source of distraction that could contribute to crashes,” Whitehill said.

The researchers enlisted undergraduate students to complete the Cell Phone Overuse Scale (CPOS), a 24-item instrument that assesses four aspects of problematic cell phone use: 1) frequent anticipation of calls/messages, 2) interference with normal activities (e.g., impacting friends/family), 3) a strong emotional reaction to the cell phone, and 4) recognising problem use.

The 384 students also took an online anonymous survey that included questions about driving history, prior crashes while operating a vehicle, and items assessing risk behaviours and psychological profile, according to a HIPRC statement.

“Young drivers continue to use cell phones in the car, despite the known risk of crash. We were interested to explore how cell phone use contributes to distracted driving and to begin to understand the relationship between the driver and the phone,” said senior study author Beth E. Ebel, director, HIPRC, and associate professor of paediatrics.

Results showed that for each one point increase on the CPOS, there was a roughly one percent increase in the number of previous vehicle crashes. Of the four dimensions of compulsive cell phone use, a higher level of call anticipation was significantly associated with prior crashes.

“We know it is important to prevent young drivers from taking their hands off the wheel and eyes off the road to use a cell phone,” Whitehill said.

These findings were presented on Sunday at the Paediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual meeting in Boston, US.

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