Another "Important" Study...Maybe Not

When I was a student at UCLA, I contemplated Psychology as a major. I enjoyed the subject matter. I found the professors interesting and the studies fascinating. But, I will never forget the day I decided Psychology was not for me. I was part of a study group, preparing for an exam. We were testing each other on the key figures in Psychology, their names and their contribution to the field.

It was George Mueller, I think, that put me over the top. Whether it was George or someone else, the textbook informed us that the significant idea he brought to advance this vital study was: "No two people are alike." Brilliant! How long did it take him to discern this complicated facet of humanity? What kind of in-depth, long-term experiment did he conduct to come to such a conclusion? And, what would Psychology look like today without such a foundational theory?

Please forgive my sarcasm. But, that's really what I thought and some of what I shared aloud as a part of that study group. It was also the beginning of the end of my consideration of Psychology as a major.

Today, we're hearing claims about cell phones and car accidents. Brace yourselves for this!
A study released Tuesday reveals that drivers using cell phones are four times as likely to get into a car accident. Maybe you didn't know that cell phones make us four times as likely to get in trouble on the road. But, I'd have to wonder whether you suspected this might be true. My guess is that whatever money and time was invested in the study was money that was wasted. Ask anyone who...hmmmm...drives. Yeh, that's it. Anyone who drives, would be the target group. What is the point of a study like that, really? It is, like Mueller, stating the obvious.

We all know that whether it be talking on a cell phone, drinking coffee or applying make up, anything that distracts us from the road makes us vulnerable to getting into an accident. Now I'm sounding like George Meuller.

It's early in the week and, as you can tell, I'm already burned out. Maybe I'll get more serious tomorrow :) Have a great day!


At 7/13/2005 04:06:00 PM, Blogger Layman said...

Often times studies are excuses to spend more more money. For example, now the Department of Transportation (or its state equivalent or some interest group) could say, "Well, this is a serious. People are dying. We need to get more money from Congress to launch a PR campaign letting people know the dangers of driving under the influence of a phone."

At 7/19/2005 10:32:00 AM, Blogger The WordSmith from Nantucket said...

Cell phones are a problem; but I blame the competency on the drivers themselves, mostly. Cell phones are just one (a major one at that) piece of distraction, in a series of distractions that can occur while on the road. An earlier study from a few years ago had billboad signs, food and hot coffee, and fiddling with the radio as leading cell-phone use in terms of accidents. Also, ordinary conversation with passengers in the car. Anything that causes you to lose yourself in thought or take your eyes off the road for too long can be a cause for accidents. It's not just cell phones.

Also, people just have poor judgment skills. If you MUST be on the mobile phone, the time to dial is not while you are swinging curves on the road, but perhaps when the light turns yellow, then red, and you know it will remain red for a while. You have to pick and choose when it is safe to look away from the road, and when the road needs your undivided attention.

Every individual is different. I, myself, am pretty good at multi-tasking. I also know my limitations. But I am often able to mentally juggle tasks at hand.

This occurs while I coach gymnastics. I am always keeping my eyes not only on the kid I am immediately spotting and direcly handling, but also on observing the rest of the class and offering feedback to all parties, as best I can. I am always positioning myself strategically, using mirrors at times, so that I can keep an eye on everyone.

I noticed this ability to multi-task also while cashiering, I was the fastest behind the register and could service and prioritize customers very efficiently. And sometimes I'd even be on 2 registers at one time, handling cash on one and a charge on someone else's. I never over-reached though, beyond what I could safely handle.

That being said, I think there are a lot of people who just plain can't handle more than one brain function at a time. These are the people who forget that their primary focus behind the wheel should always be in alertness on driving. I've seen drivers who are being distracted by things other than cellphones.

What are the benefits-to-risk ratio, in terms of cell-phone use, when you are on long drives? What if you are a business man and it takes 1-3 hours on the freeway to get to work? How much business time do you economize, thanks to cellphones? In general, I'd say it's more hazardous driving through city-streets while on the cell-phone than it is be on it while in rush-hour freeway traffic; less split-second decisions involved, and chances of things such as pedestrians to watch out for.

I used to be a big fan of ear-pieces and always wondered why Scully and Mulder were always shown on X-Files talking on their cell-phones while driving. They could at least wear an ear-piece, to promote safety! I also thought it would be comical if in one script Mulder cusses out a driver for being on a cellphone, while he himself is on his while behind the wheel.

It makes sense to me when studies indicate that hands-free are no safer than holding the phone up to your ear. Either way, it's the conversation that your mind can get lost in. You just have to be vigilante and not allow your mind to get sucked into daydreaming the conversation...don't get pulled into any deep convos that require too much deep thinking and brainpower diversion away from the mercurial changes of the road.

I used to prefer ear-pieces, though; and it irked me more to see drivers without them. It just looks so uncomfortable to hold something up to your ear. I guess, being a multi-tasker, I always liked having my hands free. I even almost bought a landline phone that was a headset, so that I could do chores around the house while on the phone.

The thing to keep in mind, is that when you get behind the wheel, the lives of other people are in your hands; not just your own life and the lives of your passengers. It's your responsibility to keep yourself safe not only from your mistakes, but be aware of the mistakes of other drivers who make poor decisions around you on the road...or who are distracted, whether it be from car phones or other forms of distraction.

I don't know if you'll see this comment, as I just discovered your blog thanks to Mark Manness. Nice to see a fellow Bruin by the way! Keep up the great posts!

At 7/19/2005 04:00:00 PM, Blogger Lores Rizkalla said...

Point(s) well taken, Wordsmith! I think you're right that at the end of the day, it's all about how distracted we are as drivers--whatever the distraction--that makes the roads dangerous.

Thanks for the great comments. I should have known you were a fellow Bruin :)

I look forward to your continued commentary!

At 7/19/2005 07:27:00 PM, Blogger The WordSmith from Nantucket said...

Thanks for the welcome. Since this post is getting buried, I wasn't sure if you'd notice my comment anytime soon.

Feel free to visit my place anytime. I just started blogging last month, so I have a viewership of about one. (Thanks, Mark Maness!)


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