CHICAGO, Ill. — A new study suggests that drivers using cell phones are a cause of highway congestion, impeding traffic flow and clogging traffic.
“It’s a bit like breaking wind in the elevator. Everyone suffers,” Peter Martin of the University of Utah’s Traffic Lab told Reuters. “When a driver who is not distracted is in a traffic stream and the vehicle in front slows down, the driver will brake in response. When a vehicle speeds up in front, the driver will respond and speed up.”
In the study, 36 university students drove through six highway situations in various traffic conditions. Half the time they used a hands-free cell phone while the other half the time they remained off the phone. The study found that drivers who talked on the phone made fewer lane changes, drove slower and took longer to get to their destination.
In fact, in medium- and high-density traffic flows, drivers were 20% less likely to change lanes according to a report by Reuters. They also spent 25 to 50 seconds longer following slower-moving vehicles before changing to an open lane. And they drove about 2 mph slower than when they were not on the phone.
Studies have suggested that as many as 10% of American drivers are on their cell phone at any given time.
“Delays in traffic streams of very small amounts grow into massive numbers when you project it across a highway and across a nation,” Martin said..
– With files from Reuters
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