A new reason for why you shouldn't be using your cell phone while driving: it can endanger your family relationships, says University of Minnesota professor Paul Rosenblatt.
The same factors that make using a cell phone while driving more hazardous-longer reaction times and impaired attention-can also make family communication in that situation more risky, Rosenblatt adds.
The article, authored by Rosenblatt and graduate student Xiaohui Li, rovides a speculative theoretical analysis on the topic.
Rosenblatt is a family social science professor in the university's College of Education and Human Development.
"If we assume that the relationship risks involved in talking on a cell phone while driving are similar to the driving risks-both tasks involve divided attention and distraction-we can develop ideas about how a family relationship may be impaired," Rosenblatt says.
For example, studies have indicated that cell phone use while driving leads to slower reaction times on the road. This could translate to the driver's cell phone conversation as well.
"A delay in the conversation could be a problem if the person (spouse or partner) on the other end of the conversation interprets the delayed reaction as an indicator of ambivalence, of not having a ready answer or of hiding something. This all leads to upsetting the partner," Rosenblatt says.
And, what if the driver misses important details of the conversation? This could lead to misunderstandings and more hard feelings, he says.
"In general, while driving might lead to missed relationship stop lights, slow reactions to dangerous relationship circumstances, loss of control of one's part of the interaction, and interaction mistakes that could lead to conflict, hurt feelings, misunderstandings, and possibly even serious damage to the relationship," Rosenblatt says.
The partner who is not driving might be worried about the driver's safety and may cut a conversation short so the driver can concentrate, but the driver might interpret that in a negative way.
In addition to the relationship problems created by talking on cell phone while driving, a number of problems arise that both people have when one of them is driving while talking on a cell phone.
The lack of visual cues including gestures, facial expressions and posture creates challenges. Poor cell phone reception and the noise from the automobile and the road can all contribute to misunderstandings, he says.
The research appears in the current issue of Family Science Review.