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Neuroscience For Kids

Cell Phones and Crossing the Street: A Dangerous Mix?
October 23, 2009

Does your city have a law that bans people from talking on cell phones while they drive? Many cities have such laws to reduce the risk of accidents and injuries. Should there be a law that bans talking on cell phones when people cross the street? New research shows that kids who talk on phones might be placing themselves in danger when they cross in front of traffic.

Researchers in the Department of Psychology at the University of Alabama wanted to find out if talking on a cell phone posed a danger to kids as they crossed the street. A total of 77 kids (average age, 10.9 years old) participated in a virtual environment (VE) experiment. The VE is a series of three monitors that show traffic moving in both directions across a sidewalk. Behaviors of the kids in the VE were compared as the kids crossed the street with or without using a cell phone.

When kids crossed the street while using a cell phone, they behaved in a riskier manner than when they crossed without a cell phone. For example, when they used a cell phone, the kids:

The cell phone is a useful device; it keeps us connected to friends and family. But these devices can also be distracting. So, the next time you are crossing the street, put your phone conversation on hold until you get to the other side.

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Copyright © 1996-2009, Eric H. Chudler, University of Washington