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The Most Dangerous Thing To Do On A Cellphone

Sunday, March 10th, 2013 by | Filed Under: Smartphones

The most dangerous thing you can do with a cellphone is probably something you see other drivers do every day. It may even be something you’ve done occasionally yourself.

A new study  funded by the Canadian government shows that turning left (right if you’re driving in countries where they drive on the left side of the road) while talking on the phone is more dangerous than you might have imagined. You aren’t just distracted, your brain literally shuts down crucial parts of the brain needed to see and pay attention.

This wasn’t an easy study to carry out. Researchers at Toronto’s Sunnybrook Hospital spent more than a year figuring out how to integrate MRI machines to driving simulators, so they could see what the brain did in various driving situations. They used healthy, young volunteers with at least a few years of driving experience.

Making a left-hand turn, especially in traffic, requires more of your attention. But making one while trying to chat actually caused part of the brain to shut down. Blood moved from the part of the brain that handles vision, shutting down its function by 50%.  It didn’t matter if the drivers were going hands-free – their brains were still engaged. 

So, if you’ve ever asked yourself if other drivers are using their brains, it’s quite possible they weren’t.

~ Cynthia

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16 Responses to “The Most Dangerous Thing To Do On A Cellphone”

  1. Elwood Jones says:

    I realize most if not all provinces have laws against talking on a cell phone and driving. They were sort of obeyed for 2-4 months. Once enforcement levels dropped usage levels skyrocketed again. Beats me why people woulg rather talk on a phone than live to old age but I am sure there is a study somewhere to tell me why?????

    • Shanker says:

      Oh, it is so there also! I thought that people disobeying laws in the absence of enforcement happens only in developing countries. It’s some what comforting that others are no better!

  2. Elwood Jones says:

    Yeah, watch the people turning left drift across 2-3 lanes of traffic to get to the curb lane. I generally watch and stay out of the way if possible.

  3. Ray Parry says:

    Hi, I live in Wales in the UK, in our country we have to use Hands Free kits with Mobile Phones whilst driving, the Police are watching for this all the time, persistent offenders have their drivers licence revoked.

  4. Peter says:

    When quoting an important article like this one it would be wonderful and give MORE credibility to give us the source of the info. i.e. the web address or publication info. I just finished taking an AARP driving course and this would be invaluable info to a bunch of less than young drivers in not so good health….Just think I could ask my wife to “be quiet..I’m going to make a left hand turn” Peaceful bliss!!

  5. Barbara Pickett says:

    Common sense…wins every time…wonder if this will be published/broadcast on the news? Let’s post it on Face Book and watch it go viral!

  6. Barbara Pickett says:

    Why didn’t you give the name/site/more info than “a Canadian Study”?

  7. Barry says:

    Here in Melbourne, Australia, (right-hand turn country) we have an advertising campaign currently in progress where a girl is saying, “I never text or use my phone while driving.” at which point the phone beeps. “Well maybe sometimes”, says the girl as she looks down to check her message. Two seconds later BANG!!! End of story!

    RIP silly girl.

  8. Jon - UK says:

    We need to use technology to make it impossible to use a non hands free mobile phone while driving. Why are we so afraid of the “use a phone at any cost ” lobby? There are simply no excuses for using a phone while driving. It may be desirable for lots of business or social reasons but the safety of self and others should be paramount. The law is not working. We need a “Pull over safely and stop first or turn it off” campaign.

  9. Kenwood says:

    I have taught AARP driving classes for about a dozen years. Like several responders to this article, I too wish that the source of this information was given. Only 2 or 3 people know my cell phone number — so my phone seldomly rings. When it does I neglect it or park the car to answer it.

    • cynthia says:

      For those wanting detailed information on the study: The study was conducted by the Canadian government with researchers from Keenan Research Centre of the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, St. Michael’s Hospital, Toronto, ON, Canada, Department of Surgery, Faculty of Medicine, Division of Neurosurgery, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada, Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada, Department of Physical Sciences, Sunnybrook Research Institute, Toronto, ON, Canada, Department of Medicine, Baycrest Geriatric Health Care Centre, Toronto, ON, Canada, Rotman Research Institute, Baycrest, Toronto, ON, Canada,Toronto Rehabilitation Research Institute, University Health Network, Toronto, ON, Canada, Department of Medicine and Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada,Department of Medical Biophysics, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada. You can read it in its entirety at the Frontiers In Human Neuroscience website. The article is titled “Brain activity during driving with distraction: an immersive fMRI study.

  10. kaks says:

    This tip is great & maked perfect sense. Ego~especially for men! is a big factor. I wish drivers would take heed & keep all of us safe.

  11. Sylvia Steinbrock says:

    So many people drive while using a cell phone as well as texting. I live in the city and am happy I don’t have a car as I would avoid driving near these people, if I could avoid them. Why don’t they pass more stringent laws to prevent it. Look how long it took before people automatically put their seat belts on and most do now.

  12. Carole Woollard says:

    Excellent tip, who would have thought part of your brain shuts down when looking either direction.

  13. Gordon says:

    I noticed that the article says that using hands free devices made no difference. That means that conversation with the driver during times requiring extra attention would have the same effect as a hands free phone.

  14. Shanker says:

    Here in our country, even some two-wheeler drivers talk over phone while driving! While talking, some hold it in one hand, and some between neck and shoulder. Probably, we the common man should interrupt such people.

    Mmm…I envy the people of Wales, UK.

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