Los Angeles Only a talented few can simultaneously talk on a cell phone and drive safely, according to a study from researchers at the University of Utah.
The danger of a study like this is, of course, that everyone will think they are in the 2.5 percent of all people whom the study found to be “supertaskers.” The pertinent fact is that 97.5 percent of us can’t drive safely while talking on the phone — even a hands-free phone.
The researchers assessed the performance of 200 people using simulated freeway driving while conducting a conversation on a hands-free phone that involved memorizing words and solving some math problems. Performance was measured in braking, reaction time, following distance, memory and math execution.
For the vast majority of people, performance suffered in both driving and comprehension. Braking time increased by 20 percent while following distances increased by 30 percent. Memory performance declined 11 percent and math performance 3 percent. The deterioration in performance was comparable to the impairment seen in drunken drivers, the authors said.
A few individuals, however, were supertaskers — they could successfully perform the two tasks at once.
“There is clearly something special about supertaskers,” said the authors, David Strayer and Jason Watson, in a news release.
The study is published this week in the journal Psychonomic Bulletin and Review.