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News > Driving, cell phones don’t mix
Driving, cell phones don’t mix

Posted 4/16/2013   Updated 4/16/2013 Email story   Print story


by Scott Prater
Schriever Sentinel

4/16/2013 - SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo.  -- In 2009, the state of Colorado passed a law prohibiting drivers from using wireless telephones for text messaging or manual data entry.

While many people know, inherently, that texting while driving is a dangerous behavior, many still believe talking on a cell phone while driving is perfectly safe.

Master Sgt. Sarah Law, 50th Space Wing ground safety manager, said empirical evidence suggests these people are relying on a myth.

"Even if a driver is using a hands-free device, they are still multitasking," Law said. "Driving while carrying on a phone conversation does carry risks."

According to a 2012 survey conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, drivers talking on handheld or hands-free devices are four times more likely to be involved in a car crash. More than two in three drivers report talking on cell phones at least once in the past 30 days and nearly one in three reported doing so regularly.

A report released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration explains that the human brain cannot multitask. Driving and talking on a cell phone are two thinking tasks that involve many areas of the brain. Instead of processing both simultaneously, the brain rapidly switches between two cognitive activities.

Likewise, many people contend there is no difference between talking on a phone and talking to someone in their car. But, a 2008 study conducted by the University of Utah found that drivers distracted by cell phones are more oblivious to changing traffic conditions because they are the only person involved in the conversation who is aware of the road.

"When you have a passenger in your car, you have an extra set of eyes and ears that help keep you alert to traffic and road conditions," Law said. "The person on the other end of your phone call has no idea what you can see."

Another myth stems from the idea that phone-call distraction can be mitigated if drivers simply use a hands-free device, but the same NHTSA advisement warns people this isn't the case.

According to a Carnegie Mellon University study, activity in the area of the brain that processes movement of visual images decreases as much as 37 percent when a person is listening to language.

Cell phone use can even slow driver's reaction times. The same University of Utah study that showed distracted drivers were more oblivious to changing traffic conditions also found that cell phone users had slower reaction times than drivers who were legally drunk or those who had a blood alcohol content of .08.

Schriever Air Force Base follows Air Force Instruction, which states the installation commander has the authority to suspend on-base driving privileges for distracted driving. Drivers are permitted to operate a cell phone, but must use a hands-free device.

Those cited for operating a handheld cell phone while driving could be issued a warning or lose on-base driving privileges for up to 30 days. Repeated offenses could lead to more suspended time.

"The 50th Space Wing leadership is very committed to eliminating distracted driving on base," said Lt. Col. Robb Owens, 50 SW safety chief. "A lot of people think they can get away with talking or texting on their phones while driving; however, statistics show that it will eventually catch up with them. Very few texts or phone conversations are worth the risk of getting a ticket, or worse, causing an accident that could injure yourself or someone else."

Information regarding traffic and driving rules on base can be found in the 50th Space Wing Supplement to Air Force Instruction 31-204 at, search AFI31-204¬_50SWSUP.

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