Why Cell Phones and Driving Don’t Mix

by Win Wenger, Ph.D.
Winsights No. 109 (September/October 2009)

Watch the eyes of the next person you engage in conversation, or of someone engaged in conversation, whether on the phone or face-to-face.

You know. You’ve seen it yourself, literally millions of times. Your eyes do it, too. While conversing, our eyes go all over the place, even while driving. Why hasn’t anyone remarked this overwhelmingly obvious ongoing phenomenon and its significance for driving?

OK, so eyes go all over the place in other activities as well, such as thinking, but they’ve come to do so in a way that reflects the rhythm of the road. The eyes are off the road some, but much less often at critical times. In conversations on the cell phone—even hands-free, much less the texting currently being debated—half of the time the eyes are off the road in the rhythm of the person on the other end of the phone conversation.

Why hasn’t anyone remarked something this obvious and serious? In fact, both NLP and Project Renaissance have worked with this reflexive eye movement phenomenon since the early 1980s, and developmental optometrists and opthalmologists have done so since the 1920s, but apparently no mention of this hugely significant relationship in the literature thus far….

Editor’s notes: That cell-phone use during driving is dangerous has, of course, been broadly noted; Win proposes an explanation. Texting is asynchronous, so it could be done “in a way that reflects the rhythm of the road.” Alas, I fear that Win is correct and that it is not necessarily practiced in that manner.