In a recent issue of Family Science Review, University of Minnesota professor Paul Rosenblatt discusses the risks, as he sees them, of communicating while driving. He contends that the same factors that make driving while talking on a cellphone risky — distracted concentration and slower reactions times — can also take their toll on the conversation at hand.
It makes sense. Effective communication via cellphones is hard enough given the absence of visual cues and facial expressions. Factor in the distractions created by traffic lights, other motorists and the possibility of an errant child or animal dashing into the road and the chances increase dramatically that a driver will respond thoughtlessly, miss an important comment or, perhaps worse, deliver a delayed response where there really, really shouldn’t be a delay.
A family social science professor in the university’s College of Education and Human Development, Rosenblatt explained that the motive for his article came from his field of study, as well a general desire to help people.
“It just seemed obvious to me…. That kind of communication is not simple. There are more mistakes likely to happen. People misunderstand each other, focus less, and respond slower, which could all be negative for relationships,” Rosenblatt said in an interview.
To date, Rosenblatt has yet to actually test his theory -- citing both the financial and logistical difficulties involved in doing so. But, despite this lack of scientific evidence, Rosenblatt has given his theory a lot of thought, relying on experiences in his own life and conversations with his students as proof that his theory has merit.
For the less imaginative among us, Rosenblatt surmised five possible scenarios in which cellphone usage while driving could lead to relationship problems:
- A phone call to the driver requesting that they run an errand;
- A phone call delivering good news;
- A phone call delivering bad news;
- Arguments over the phone;
- Apologies made over the phone.
Surely, you can think of (or recall) other examples.
Overall, considering what we’re now learning about the perils of talking while driving …
… maybe we could all benefit from swallowing Rosenblatt’s bitter pill. It might be time to just shut up, hang up, and drive.
-- Jessie Schiewe
Photo credit: Los Angeles Times
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