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Healthy Living - WABI

Healthy Living Library

Healthy Living - EMMCHealthy Living is a weekly television news segment seen on WABI-TV5. Local physicians from Eastern Maine Medical Center and The Acadia Hospital give opinions on the latest research, highlight concerns, and eliminate fear. They focus on important health issues that concern you and your family.Watch the segment each Tuesday on Channel 5's First News at five!.

April is Distracted Driver Awareness Month
Healthy Living - April 15, 2014
Jonathan Wood, MDJonathan Wood, MD, pediatric intensivist

We’ve heard it before and we will hear it again: distracted driving is “driving under the influence” and cell phone use has rapidly become THE number one culprit. You can change this.


  • Up to 90 percent of all car crashes are caused by driver error
  • At any moment, nine percent of people driving are talking on cell phones
  • An estimated 26 percent of all car crashes involve cell phone use
  • Two out of three drivers report talking on their cell phone as least once in the past 30 days. One in Three report doing so “fairly often” or “regularly.”


· Most car crashes are caused by car malfunctions.

    o No – car malfunctions constitute a small percentage, likely less than 10%

    o Driver error is far and away the most common cause of car crashes

· Drivers can multitask

    o No – multiple studies point to the inability of the human brain to truly “multitask”.  Instead of simultaneously doing two thinking tasks, the brain more typically switches back and forth between the tasks, invariably leaving one task with considerably less attention.

· Talking to someone on a cell phone is no different than talking to someone in the car

    o No – numerous studies have demonstrated that drivers talking on cell phones are more oblivious to changing traffic conditions

    o No – interestingly, extra adult passengers offer an “extra set of eyes” and have been shown to help keep drivers alert to oncoming traffic problems. 

    o No – these adult passengers also modulate their conversation in response to changing driving conditions, something that a person on the other end of a phone conversation cannot possibly do.

·Hands-free devices eliminate the danger of cell phone use during driving

    o No – the brain activity area that processes moving images is up to one-third less active when listening to or talking on a phone

    o No – talking on any kind of cell phone results in “inattention blindness” where the drivers field of view is reduced by up to 50 percent!

· Drivers talking on cell phones still have a quicker reaction time than those who are driving under the influence of alcohol.

    o No – drivers using cell phones have slower reaction times than drivers with a 0.08 blood alcohol content (the legal intoxication limit)

    o The main difference:  drivers talking on cell phones can immediately eliminate their risk by hanging up the phone!  (not the case for drunk drivers…)

The Essential Trio requirements for driving:

1. Eyes on the road   2. Hands on the wheel   3. Mind on driving


For more information:    

National Safety Council website on distracted driving

National Transportation Safety Board slide presentation on the impact of hands-free cell phone use

Interesting related video:  Vintage 1953 NSC training film on distracted driving


Eastern Maine Medical Center