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Gamers Better at Driving w/ Cell Phones?

CmdrTaco posted more than 8 years ago | from the still-deserve-to-be-smacked dept.

Communications 310

sl4shd0rk writes "A lot of people think talking on the cell phone while driving is natural, but each time someone asks a question or changes the subject, it's like taking on a new task, Psychologists who study multi-tasking have argued for years about whether these "information bottlenecks" occur because people are inherently lazy, or because they have a fundamental inability to switch from one task to another. Mei-Ching Lien, an assistant professor of psychology at Oregon State University. "Even with a seemingly simple task, structural cognitive limitations can prevent you from efficiently switching to a new task." I have to say that the best ones are those who play a lot of video games," she pointed out. "Those are lab studies, however, and not driving tests." " All I know is that I could get where I was going better if I could shoot turtles at others on the highway.

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It's okay, officer . . . (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14233038)

. . . I play Quake. Wonder if this works for drunk driving, too :).

Mushroom (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14233040)

Well i know i used a mushroom to get into this pole position

Stupid console fans (4, Funny)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | more than 8 years ago | (#14233196)

Now I tuned my car to the max stripping all the boring bits off like roof, lights etc and powerslide my way around corners at 200 miles per hour (grand prix legends) but do you think that is tolerated? NOooooo. I guess the police here is still pissed they had to give up their porches and take it out on anyone who think the speed limit is meant to be a minimum.

Vindication! (2, Funny)

mwilliamson (672411) | more than 8 years ago | (#14233042)

Woohoo, I knew this skill would come in handy someday ;-)

Well?? (-1, Redundant)

Y2 (733949) | more than 8 years ago | (#14233044)

Well?

I'm here to moderate but there are no posts!

So instead I'll just say that it's normal to embrace enthusiastically any message that tells you you're better than most other people. Caveat lector.

Re:Well?? (3, Funny)

UnderDark (869922) | more than 8 years ago | (#14233113)

I'll just say that it's normal to embrace enthusiastically any message that tells you you're better than most other people.

Wohoo! I'm normal now!

Re:Well?? (5, Funny)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 8 years ago | (#14233125)

Yeah, it reminds me of a joke about ultra male English drivers.

I break the speed limit, tailgate and drive after 3 pints. But it's ok, because I'm a good driver with a very fast car.

Testosterone poisoning I call it.

It's fun actually! (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14233047)

Like a game! Fifty fifty chances you either crash or get a chance to live another day!:)

Alert the presses! (3, Interesting)

Spazntwich (208070) | more than 8 years ago | (#14233050)

Heavily practicing tasks allows one to perform them better and with more consistency than people who have never tried!

Has it yet been considered that humans aren't necessarily BAD at multitasking, but we're plenty of capable of training ourselves to be better at it? You know, much like we are with almost everything else that is a learned behavior.

Re:Alert the presses! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14233056)

Mei-Ching Lien, an assistant professor of psychology at Oregon State University. "Even with a seemingly simple task, structural cognitive limitations can prevent you from efficiently switching to a new task."

Mei-Ching Lien is a professor, you're not... so I'm more inclined to believe Mei-Ching Lien.

Re:Alert the presses! (1)

JustOK (667959) | more than 8 years ago | (#14233266)

And professors are such a notouriously trustworthy subset of ugly bags of mostly water, ubetcha!

Natural? No. (5, Insightful)

DikSeaCup (767041) | more than 8 years ago | (#14233053)

"A lot of people think talking on the cell phone while driving is natural ..."

And a lot of people (including many gamers) think it is not natural.

GET OFF THE PHONE AND DRIVE.

Re:Natural? No. (3, Insightful)

oberondarksoul (723118) | more than 8 years ago | (#14233102)

Mod parent up. When you're driving a huge lump of metal with the ability to very, very easily end someone else's (or your own) life, you should be concentrating on one thing and one thing only: ensuring that you don't.

Re:Natural? No. (5, Insightful)

MurphyZero (717692) | more than 8 years ago | (#14233131)

Then we should make all cars single passenger vehicles, because I for one am more distracted by passengers talking in the car than by a conversation on a cell phone. For one, the social interaction habits tend to make the driver want to look at the other speaker. A cell phone does not. Likewise, instead of a child seat, maybe a muzzle would provide them better protection. I do have two children, and those two are much greater distractions than any cell phone will ever be.

Re:Natural? No. (4, Insightful)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 8 years ago | (#14233246)

Yes, but a passenger is MUCH more likely to alert you of an impending danger(they can see where you are, and of course don't want to die) than a person on a cell phone. Not to mention that even on hands free sets talking on a cellphone is less natural, and thus takes more concentration than talking to someone next to you.

Re:Natural? No. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14233279)

I for one am more distracted by passengers talking in the car than by a conversation on a cell phone.

Is this a self diagnosis or do you actually have some objective basis for this comment? If this is a self-diagnosis then are you a complete imbecile? "Oh well I didn't feel like I was concentrating less so I wasn't, wow my skills of self awareness are so advanced I'm virtually a Buddha". Moron.

Re:Natural? No. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14233320)

How in the hell was the parent modded insightful? The difference between talking to another passenger in the car and talking to someone on a cell phone has already been looked at in scientific studies. Talking to someone on a cell phone is worse for your concentration on your immediate surroundings, and that's the end of the story.

Re:Natural? No. (1)

Jonny_eh (765306) | more than 8 years ago | (#14233336)

Just give the little munchkins a baggie of cheerios, that should shut them up.

But then you have to clean up, but at least you avoided an accident!

Calling Bullshit (1)

RJSIII (878585) | more than 8 years ago | (#14233342)

"For one, the social interaction habits tend to make the driver want to look at the other speaker. A cell phone does not."

Clearly, to make such a bold assertion, you must have a body of evidence to support you. Obviously some heretofore unknown portion of the fossil record indicates that as Homo Sapiens were evolving, cellphones were growing on baobab trees, and so our brains learned to make distinctions based upon whether or not we're talking on the cellphone.

Re:Natural? No. (2, Interesting)

master_p (608214) | more than 8 years ago | (#14233141)

Correct, but why should we be required to physically drive? GPS technology can offer centimeter accuracy, detailed electronic maps of cities already exist, algorithms that choose the optimal path in a graph are known for half a century, sonic radars (or other type) can already be used for regulating the flow of indepentent vehicles on a road.

I'd rather spend my time working and talking, even if in a car on road to work, rather than having to actually pay attention to the road.

Billions of dollars are spent to things like the Iraq war, instead of improving our lives.

Re:Natural? No. (2, Interesting)

BushCheney08 (917605) | more than 8 years ago | (#14233194)

Does this mean that I, as a pedestrian or bicyclist, will now be required to carry a GPS device so that some idiot who's letting his car drive doesn't run me down?

Re:Natural? No. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14233288)

That's where a radar in the car will come in handy ;) The technology already exists, it's just not used.

Re:Natural? No. (1)

BushCheney08 (917605) | more than 8 years ago | (#14233294)

Well, I just hope it's sensitive enough to pick up my cat when he's tearing around the neighborhood...

Re:Natural? No. (1)

Tony Hoyle (11698) | more than 8 years ago | (#14233473)

There's a fantastic video around of a car demo where a manufacturer was boasting it was impossible to make this car hit anything - it has a snazzy new proximity detector in it that slammed the brakes on automatically.

To test it they drove it at high speed into a cloud of fog, in which was an unseen parked car. It braked... *way* too late, and totalled the car....

Re:Natural? No. (1)

Sgt_Peppers (611481) | more than 8 years ago | (#14233144)

Talking is perfectly natural, much like talking to the person sitting next to you. However, holding a mobile phone next to your head meaning that you can't use that hand to drive isn't really that good idea. If you want/need to use a phone while driving get a hands free kit. There is now a specific legal offence of using a hand held mobile phone while driving in the UK, unfortunately it's a bit harder to prosecute people for than speeding, so not many get caught.

But it's *not* like having someone next to you (5, Informative)

Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) | more than 8 years ago | (#14233225)

Unfortunately, like most people, you've got completely the wrong idea of why driving while using a mobile phone is dangerous. At this point, I'd like to pause for a moment to thank the UK government for introducing legislation attacking the wrong problem, and thus giving millions of drivers a false sense of security when they're using a hands-free kit.

In fact, if you look at the studies done in the UK and elsewhere before the explicit ban was introduced in the UK, the big problem is the loss of concentration. The physical incapacity caused by tying up one hand obviously doesn't help, but it makes far, far less of a difference to road safety.

The reason that talking on a phone isn't like talking to a person next to you is that a person next to you will sense when you need to concentrate, because they can see that you're approaching a hazard for example, and they'll shut up and not distract you while you navigate around the hazard. Someone you're talking to on a phone can't do that, and will change the subject, ask you a question, or otherwise attract your attention just as much when you're approaching a potential danger as when you're driving on an open road without another car in sight. Whether you're holding a little box near your ear or listening to someone through a speaker doesn't affect this at all.

If the UK government really wanted to improve the level of road safety rather than score cheap political points, they would have banned all mobile phone use while driving. Then again, the whole idea of such a specific offence seems a bit redundant when you already have legislation making dangerous driving illegal in general. Presumably someone thought it would draw more attention to the specific and increasing problem, or they were just after the political points.

In summary, this is wrong:

If you want/need to use a phone while driving get a hands free kit.

For most people, you simply don't need to use a phone while driving, period. If you want to talk to someone elsewhere while on the move, get someone else to drive. Doing anything less will dramatically increase your risk of having an accident, as surely as driving while drunk, tired or stoned.

Re:Natural? No. (1)

epedersen (863120) | more than 8 years ago | (#14233168)

I agree, Get off the phone and drive, you drive as bad as I do when I am talking on the phone.

Re:Natural? No. (1)

ThaFooz (900535) | more than 8 years ago | (#14233204)

I think a lot of gamers recognize that talking while gaming is perfectly natural, but also recognize that their gaming ability is reduced when one hand is dedicated to the phone. Hence a good number of gamers own headsets (for CS Teamspeak and the like, or the ability to game while on the phone). I know, at least for me, that the mentality carries over into my phone use in the car. I always use a headset.

Re:Natural? No. (1)

damsa (840364) | more than 8 years ago | (#14233214)

Some people think driving a car is natural. Driving a car is not natural! GET OVER IT

Re:Natural? No. (2, Insightful)

psycln (937854) | more than 8 years ago | (#14233268)

Then what is the difference between talking to someone in your car, and talking to someone on a hands free headset?

Re:Natural? No. (3, Insightful)

StarvingSE (875139) | more than 8 years ago | (#14233291)

Agreed. Nov. 15th, I was sitting at a red light with 2 other cars in front of me, and all of a sudden I get rear ended by an F150 at 45mph. My car and the car in front of me ended up totalled. The reason he wasn't paying attention to the red light...... HE WAS ON THE CELL PHONE.

I don't care how good people think they are at multitasking, driving requires 100% of your attention. You could be good at it 99% of the time, but then there's that one time your trying to dial someone's number and you accidentally veer into that kid on a bike.

Re:Natural? No. (1)

alex4u2nv (869827) | more than 8 years ago | (#14233309)

Why? The phone comes in handy when driving... Kinda like playing games with a team! We use it to spot and alert each other of cops and potential races on the road, and to devise strategies to get traffic to open up a bit!

.
.
.
This is on X-Box / PlayStation racing games, btw. Just incase any cop in my area is reading this =p.

Bravo (3, Funny)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 8 years ago | (#14233455)

Sign I'm putting on the back of my truck:

"If your mommy talks on the phone while she's driving
She doesn't love you very much"

Re:Natural? No. (2)

Cally (10873) | more than 8 years ago | (#14233476)

exactly. Try it here in the UK you're likely to not only get beeped at, and have headlights flashed at you by other drivers who prefer to avoid having to drive around people not paying attention to the road - you'll be nicked if the cops spot you, because it's illegal. Quite right, too. I'm surprised it's any different anywhere else.

Shooting turtles (5, Funny)

sucker_muts (776572) | more than 8 years ago | (#14233055)

All I know is that I could get where I was going better if I could shoot turtles at others on the highway.

Sure, but then the other cars will slow down or spin at your oil patches. :-D

(For the people who wonder: Mario kart! [mariokart.com] )

Re:Shooting turtles (1)

BushCheney08 (917605) | more than 8 years ago | (#14233203)

Man, imagine the damage one of these [tripsource.com] could do to a car!

No. (5, Insightful)

bwd (936324) | more than 8 years ago | (#14233061)

Just because you're good with multitasking with your hands doesn't mean you're inherently better than other people at multitasking in a car. With one, there are no consequences for failure. When you're driving a car, serious injury or death is the result of failure.

It's just this kind of superiority BS by gamers that will get them killed in a car. There's a difference between games and real life.

Re:No. (1)

Evil Adrian (253301) | more than 8 years ago | (#14233070)

It's just this kind of superiority BS by gamers that will get them killed in a car.

If there wasn't a chance that they'd take other people out with their stupidity, I'd say this was a good thing. :-)

Re:No. (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 8 years ago | (#14233184)

There's a difference between games and real life

Exactly. In real-life, you only start off with one "life" and no "continues". 1-UPs are hard to come by these days.

Re:No. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14233198)

It's just this kind of superiority BS by gamers that will get them killed in a car.

That's why there's a reset button!

Re:No. (3, Interesting)

nolife (233813) | more than 8 years ago | (#14233210)

I think I agree. I consider myself a "gamer", I am a little older then average but I've had every game console since pong in the mid 70's. Through gaming, I have developed great hand eye coordination, a decent ability to look for and predict how other people may react in certain situations, and I am expecting the unexpected. Those skills are great to have as a driver but I still suck at driving while on the cell phone, hands free or not. Maybe gamers are statistically better at driving overall beacause of these skills but they would still suffer from the multitasking part of talking and driving. I set a negative nice level to the phone conversation which leaves what ever mind scheduling is left over for driving. For me? It depends on the conversation. If I am discussing "how did your day go", I think I can still drive pretty decent, if I am trying to explain a recent change to our firewall to my boss, I think I'd be a road hazard.

Cars and gamers (1)

Muppski (918156) | more than 8 years ago | (#14233063)

Isen't this the reason why there are cars with TV and Xbox and/or Playstations?

Well... (4, Insightful)

Sv-Manowar (772313) | more than 8 years ago | (#14233081)

I think driving with any kind of distraction will always make driving more dangerous, even hands-free kits, because you are trying to think about the conversation you are having whilst focusing on driving. Holding a phone up to your face might mean you lose the use of one your hands for driving, but it's what is going on that is taking you attention away.

Gamers are most probably more used to multitasking while doing activities, I can't count how many times I've had a conversation while play Gran Turismo 4 only to crash because of it, but as you do it more you get better.

Is this really true? (4, Insightful)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | more than 8 years ago | (#14233228)

F1 and other motor sports absolutly leaped on the capabilty of modern communication to allow the driver to communicate with the pit crew. At speeds your average street car could only reach by being dropped from a plane.

Then their is motor cycle riding course. How do you communicate with your instructor? Two way radio. This in a vehicle that requires and extra task namely of keeping upright. With the extra handicap that by the difinition of driving instruction that you are not very good at it yet.

Police motor cycle cops also use two way radio to communicate during high speed pursuits.

So basically a lot of people drive and talk at the same time. From trained proffesionals who should know about road safety to the most elite drivers in the world to newbies.

Personally I think it depends on the person. I seen people drive that shouldn't be allowed to even if their eyes were glued to the windscreen and others who can do a myriad of tasks and still be full aware of everything on the road and more important perhaps, the side of the road. If you ever road shotgun on a truck in the innercity you will know how important it is to keep track of kids playing in gardens. Trucks seem to have a magnetic field that pulls everyone in.

Re:Is this really true? (1)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 8 years ago | (#14233264)

but the level of "involvement" in the conversation is limited. Really, in all those situations the most you are doing is giving short bits of information, not having real conversations which would cover a broad range of topics and have a very natural back and forth.

Re:Is this really true? (1)

dhakbar (783117) | more than 8 years ago | (#14233308)

Great point, man.

Were I in possession of a mod point, it'd be shined and given to you.

Re:Is this really true? (1)

Ollierose (202763) | more than 8 years ago | (#14233334)

Just as an FYI, in the UK the motorcycle riding course is one-way (Instructor to Learner). I'd have to say that instructors and police riders are equally well trained in such things, given that most seem to move from one profession to the other.

But. (5, Insightful)

TheLink (130905) | more than 8 years ago | (#14233436)

The thing is - most of those cases the driver is talking about something fairly related to the situation he needs to concentrate on.

Not something totally unrelated.

The cop probably looking at the vehicle he's chasing, describing it, saying where it's going. I'd find that not so hard to do that myself.

He's not trying to think of whether his girlfriend's maroon skirt (gf: "Not the red one, _maroon_") will go fine with her new top, or whether what he says next will get him in trouble with her...

As for F1 drivers, they are drivers who are highly coordinated and can probably multitask and drive at highspeeds. At least the top ones should be able to practically drive around tracks in their sleep ;).

Apparently when the F1 racers were made to race in go-karts years ago, Ayrton Senna apparently was driving whilst tweaking the fuel-air mix on his kart's engine at the same time.

Rally drivers might even better at these sort of situations.

Re:Well... (1)

tigerflag (648615) | more than 8 years ago | (#14233350)

Different parts of the brain respond to visual and audial stimuli. People cannot process both forms of information with equal efficiency simultaneously. When people process visual stimuli, such as when they're driving, the audial-processing part of their brain becomes less efficient. When people focus on a visual task and then have to respond to conversation, the visual part of their brain becomes less efficient and they lose track of what is going on immediately around them. It doesn't matter whether it's a cellphone or hands-free device, it's the conversation itself that's the problem.

Passengers can be equally distracting to a driver. I remember when I was a kid and carpooling to school (back in the dinosaur era), the grownups driving made us all sit quietly and not talk. I think people had more common sense then.

Driving while talking (5, Insightful)

quokkapox (847798) | more than 8 years ago | (#14233085)

I don't care if you're some kind of whiz-bang gamer, if you are the only person responsible for the safe operation of a huge chunk of fast moving metal, shouldn't you be concentrating overwhelmingly on that task alone? You owe it to the dumb pedestrians out there, who do not deserve to be Darwinized for making a simple mistake that ends up getting them killed because you're paying less attention than you could be.

Relatedly, and I know this is anecdotal, but I try to conscientiously observe the driver when I see someone make a mistake at an intersection (when it is safe for *me* to do so, such as when I'm already *STOPPED* and some bloody fool runs a stale yellow/red light from the lane next to me.) More often than not, they are talking on a cellphone. Or eating, or drinking.

WTF (3, Insightful)

Turn-X Alphonse (789240) | more than 8 years ago | (#14233088)

I can multitask fine. I'm often doing 3-4 things at once (playing games while watching TV and talking on IM for example), but this is ridiclous and should NOT be encouraged. Almost every time I see a bad driver they're either talking on the phone or they're some asshole 20 year old with daddie's money paying for his new car, who just happens to have a death wish.

I don't care if you play games, play golf or play with yourself. You can't control a car with one hand (unless specially adapted), let alone control it with one hand while you focus on going "oh really? Yes? wow? cool!" over and over down a phone. If the call is THAT important then you can pull over and answer it, you'll take 5 minutes longer to get there but you arn't endangering my life.

Re:WTF (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14233115)

I can multitask fine. I'm often doing 3-4 things at once (playing games while watching TV and talking on IM for example)

I would say that you're task switching at best. Unless you have two keyboards/mice attached to your computer and can type with both your hands and feet at the same time. In that case, feel free to disregard this comment.

Re:WTF (1)

Turn-X Alphonse (789240) | more than 8 years ago | (#14233191)

Typing with one hand, while playing my DS with the other and having my DS lined up so I can watch both monitors with just a brief eye movement.. :/

Re:WTF (5, Informative)

Hope Thelps (322083) | more than 8 years ago | (#14233130)

I can multitask fine. I'm often doing 3-4 things at once (playing games while watching TV and talking on IM for example), but this is ridiclous and should NOT be encouraged.

What they seem to ignore is that driving ALREADY means paying attention to multiple things at once. You're looking at the road ahead, and reading the road signs and watching for anything approaching the road from the sides and monitoring the situation behind you in the mirrors and keeping track of your various readouts like the speedometer. This is a lot for anyone to handle.

Re:WTF (1)

Villageidiot9390 (640068) | more than 8 years ago | (#14233347)

You're supposed to do all that when you drive?

So that's what I've been doing wrong all along!

Re:WTF (2, Interesting)

Py to the Wiz (905662) | more than 8 years ago | (#14233201)

"You can't control a car with one hand (unless specially adapted), let alone control it with one hand while you focus on going "oh really? Yes? wow? cool!" over and over down a phone."

Really? What's so difficult about it? You can talk to a passenger in your car while driving can't you? Talking to a passenger is in most cases even more distracting because you're so used to looking at people when you talk that it may cause you to take your eyes off the road (especially if they say something like "it looked like this *hand motion*". As for driving with one hand, anyone who drives a stick shift car has to do this for at least part of their driving and personally I never really had a problem with it. Growing up driving a manual, I still drive my automatic today with one hand most of the time. It's not that difficult once you get used to it.

The real problem here is just bad drivers. There are people who don't pay enough attention to their driving. They focus on the cell phone, referee kids in the back seat, etc, etc instead of focusing on the road. THIS is the real problem. I suppose what this article is saying is that gamers tend to be able to focus on multiple tasks at once and therefore are less likely to focus too intensely on the cell phone or the kids (gamers wouldn't have these btw) or what have you.

Re:WTF (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14233267)

1) You absolutely can control a car with one hand. It may be more difficult, and should not be encouraged, but to say you can't is bullshit.

2) Studies have shown that pulling over to answer a call on the highway is more endangering than answering it on the road.

I just don't see it. (4, Insightful)

bsartist (550317) | more than 8 years ago | (#14233090)

I know a lot of gamers who multitask incredibly poorly when playing games. There's a "zone" they get into, where distractions just don't get through - telephone, household pets, noise outside, a bomb in the next room, etc., none of it gets noticed.

Some folks might point out that a lot of modern games have in-game voice chat, but there's a key difference there - the players are generally talking about the game. So it's not really multitasking, it's just another piece of the single task they're involved in and focusing on.

Re:I just don't see it. (1)

lysergic.acid (845423) | more than 8 years ago | (#14233170)

I dunno, when I used to be addicted to Counter-Strike, I could play quite well while talking on the phone or performing other tasks that didn't require the use of my eyes or hands. Perhaps certain gamers grow accustomed to multi-tasking performing two separate tasks that require discrete mental resources--such as a task that mostly requires hand-eye coordination and another that simply requires speach and communication. And perhaps the way some gamers are able to maintain their performance while multi-tasking as such is because they focus intensely on the two tasks and zone everything out. So if you're talking on the phone and playing a game, maybe you ignore everything that's not relevant to those two tasks (time, other people who are trying to get your attention, smoke alarm, etc.).

Re:I just don't see it. (2, Interesting)

Guppy06 (410832) | more than 8 years ago | (#14233171)

"There's a "zone" they get into, where distractions just don't get through - telephone,"

That right there may be a part of it.

Re:I just don't see it. (0)

harlows_monkeys (106428) | more than 8 years ago | (#14233277)

I know a lot of gamers who multitask incredibly poorly when playing games. There's a "zone" they get into, where distractions just don't get through - telephone, household pets, noise outside, a bomb in the next room, etc., none of it gets noticed.

Many modern games require a high degree of multitasking within the game. I think that is where any gamer advantage at multitasking comes from. Ignoring the telephone, pets, bombs, etc., while gaming is not a failure of multitasking. It is simply ignoring distractions.

Example of multitasking in games. I have a Healer in the Midgard realm in Dark Age of Camelot. In a group, I might have to be monitoring the health and situation of up to 7 other people, prioritize their healing needs, pick what healing spells to use on them, and heal them. Meanwhile, if any extra monsters show up, I have to mesmerize them if the rest of the group is not ready to immediately deal with them. I've also got a spell that slows monster attack speed for 20 seconds. I need to be using that and renewing it on monsters that are taking a long time to kill. I've got a limited amount of power for all this, so I have to keep close watch on my power level.

The same goes for players of many other classes, in DAoC and in other MMORPGs.

Re:I just don't see it. (3, Insightful)

bsartist (550317) | more than 8 years ago | (#14233381)

Example of multitasking in games. I have a Healer in the Midgard realm in Dark Age of Camelot. In a group, I might have to be monitoring the health and situation of up to 7 other people, prioritize their healing needs, pick what healing spells to use on them, and heal them. Meanwhile, if any extra monsters show up, I have to mesmerize them if the rest of the group is not ready to immediately deal with them. I've also got a spell that slows monster attack speed for 20 seconds. I need to be using that and renewing it on monsters that are taking a long time to kill. I've got a limited amount of power for all this, so I have to keep close watch on my power level.

That's not the same kind of multitasking. Everything you mentioned is one aspect of the larger task of "playing the game" - a thread, as it were, not a full task. Switching from one thread to another isn't a change in context, because they're all closely related to one another. Driving has many such threads as well - monitoring the gauges, the road ahead, the mirrors, etc.

The kind of multitasking that causes problems is when it's two or more entirely unrelated tasks.

That's because the average person has no skills (5, Funny)

cfavader (754724) | more than 8 years ago | (#14233096)

That's because the average person has no skills.

Most gamers on the other hand have like nunchuck skills, bowhunting skills, computer hacking skills, etc...

Having such a large repertoire of skills, over the years gamers have had to learn better multitasking skills out of necessity (unless, of course, you have a sweet bike or a mustache).

Re:That's because the average person has no skills (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14233229)

I hate that movie...

Re:That's because the average person has no skills (1)

zigziggityzoo (915650) | more than 8 years ago | (#14233251)

Most gamers on the other hand have like nunchuck skills, bowhunting skills, computer hacking skills, etc... I believe you meant Bowstaff skills. Napoleon doesn't hunt.

w/ ? (1)

EnsilZah (575600) | more than 8 years ago | (#14233107)

Come on, are you typing this while driving?
How hard can it be to add an extra couple of characters?

No matter who you are (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14233112)

You should not drink and drive.

Wait, what's this about phones?

This is dumb. I got hit. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14233117)

I'm a hardcore gamer like everyone else on Slashdot. I was on the cell phone and got hit for $7000 damage a couple of months ago. It was my fault. I'm very lucky there were no injuries on either side. Gamers don't have super powers.

Not really scary.. (1)

puntloos (673234) | more than 8 years ago | (#14233120)

I've read about studies (cant reproduce them, sorry, but they sounded reasonable) that when something unexpected happens, the reaction between ppl on the phone and normal people is basically identical. People just drop the phone (literally) and do what they have to do. Also reaction times are pretty equal, and people don't really swerve etc.

Things that ARE dangerous are things like trying to operate a complex(ish) thing like a car stereo, GPS navigator, audio players etc.

So imagine my surprise when I heard that a lot of people SMS with phones while driving.. now peering at a tiny screen while driving is a BAD idea.

Re:Not really scary.. (2, Insightful)

quokkapox (847798) | more than 8 years ago | (#14233155)

I've read about studies (cant reproduce them, sorry, but they sounded reasonable) that when something unexpected happens, the reaction between ppl on the phone and normal people is basically identical. People just drop the phone (literally) and do what they have to do. Also reaction times are pretty equal, and people don't really swerve etc.

I can assure you based on personal experience that you would think differently if you are ever actually involved in an pedestrian accident. Getting hit by a car (even one moving at only ~10mph) is an experience that *immediately* makes you a much safer driver in lots of ways. I'm just glad the dude that hit me was not talking on his cell phone or I might have also been run over too.

The Driver is supposed to operate the car safely. Period.

Re:Not really scary.. (1)

ivan256 (17499) | more than 8 years ago | (#14233219)

The Driver is supposed to operate the car safely. Period.

Before I say anything I'd like to say that for the most part I agree with you... ...but, there are many cases where a distraction actually helps you be safer. I'm not talking about when you're driving in a town or city, where making the right turns and stops is enough variation to keep you focused, but for long haul driving. If you're on a long, mostly straight highway for hours and hours, you need something to keep you from entering a relaxed state and to keep your mind active. If driving becomes boring, you become a worse driver than if you were doing something mildly distracting while you drive. Once you've driven your hundreds of miles on the highway, though, driving should return to being your sole focus.

Re:Not really scary.. (1)

ivan256 (17499) | more than 8 years ago | (#14233226)

oops.

That should say: "Once you've dirven your hundreds of miles on the highway, and get off to drive on side streets again, driving should return to being your sole focus.

Re:Not really scary.. (1)

quokkapox (847798) | more than 8 years ago | (#14233244)

That's why listening to the radio, audiobooks, etc. is just fine - it keeps you awake and alert and it is a task which you can instantly tune out your attention. Long-haul highway driving is very different and IMHO much safer than city driving as long as you're doing things like following at a safe distance and maintaining a constantly updated mental map of your surroundings (including any vehicles nearby). This is easy to do when you're listinging to one-way delivery of content from an external source.

A passenger seat occupant beside you who is also a driver can be extremely helpful, because they'll cue you in subtle ways to things you may not otherwise notice. They're hopefully also watching the road as they're conversing with you and they'll stop talking immediately if they notice something amiss that presents a potential danger. Something someone on the other end of a phone connection can't possibly do.

Re:Not really scary.. (2, Insightful)

ivan256 (17499) | more than 8 years ago | (#14233188)

Things that ARE dangerous are things like trying to operate a complex(ish) thing like a car stereo, GPS navigator, audio players etc.
...dealing with misbehaved children in the back seat...

The worst drivers by far are the ones that can't ignore a crying child in the back seat. You never hear complaining about that though, because it's trendy to hate cell phones, and it's taboo to say anything bad about mothers or children.

The fact of the matter is that most people who are bad drivers while talking on a cell phone are bad drivers when they're not too. (Usually because they don't care about what they're doing, so if they're not on the phone they'll be grooming, eating, racing, etc..) If you're driving recklessly, you should be removed from the road in a permanant fashion, regardless of the cause. Reckless driving is already illegal, and stupid sub-rules are just that: stupid.

Re:Not really scary.. (2, Insightful)

nolife (233813) | more than 8 years ago | (#14233354)

I agree with your reaction time statement but not the overall assumption that the result would be the same.

In the example you site, all things are assumed to be equal up to the point that an immediate action has to be taken. Look at the two different situations a little deeper or back up in time about 15 seconds before the situation.
If you are aware of your surroundings, you can make a more logical choice or possibly see a potential hazard and prepare for it. Assume a dog running down the side of the street or even a person on a bicycle. You should notice this well before reaching that hazard by the reaction of others ahead of you. Cars slowing down, people moving slightly to the left to go around something should set of a flag in your mind that something is not right up ahead. You can adjust your driving prior to getting to the dog and be preparded just in case it darts out in front of you. Have you even been in the slow lane and notice the driver ahead of you in the fast line suddenly hits the brakes? Chances are, something is not right ahead and you should proceed with caution. Another obviously one that I have seen many times is the obvious break in traffic near an intersection. You know, the ones where cars waiting in multilane traffic leave a gap so others can get waved across through them to get to a side street? How often does someone come flying up that third lane and suddenly a car pops out of "no where" in front of them and gets t-boned. All of these examples are things you should expect but talking on the cell phone might prevent you from thinking about it. Sure, given equal reaction time, cell phone or not, you would react the same. Without the cell phone, there is a chance you could have indenified the potential hazard BEFORE you got there.

I'm pulling a theory out of my ass here and there is no real way to test these numbers but I'd wager that a much larger percentage of drivers not talking on a cell phone can tell you at any given time if there is a car riding next to them, behind them, or at an intersection ahead of them waiting to pull out compared to someone not on a cell phone. Your surroundings play a role in what action you should take if an emergency situation comes up. Waiting until the emergency situation to survey your surroundings and then react accordingly can not be as safe.

Need new Drivers license tests (3, Interesting)

G4from128k (686170) | more than 8 years ago | (#14233121)

Perhaps all driver license tests should include a multitasking reaction time test. The person would have to listen to and correctly answer questions about driving (i.e., a voice response version of the written part of the driver's test) while taking a simulated driving test that checks reaction time and the ability to multitask. You would have to both drive safely AND verbally answer the questions correctly. Those who pass both halves of the test get a license to use a cellphone whilst driving and those that don't don't. Retaking this test every 10 years would help deal with any age-related cognitive declines.

Re:Need new Drivers license tests (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14233177)

Well, during my driver license test, the guy turned on the radio and asked question for this reason, as well as randomly asking to change A/C temperature, radio station, if I liked the song, other songs by the artist etc.

So what you're saying is already what's being done, and I don't think we only do that in France ?

Re:Need new Drivers license tests (1)

Turn-X Alphonse (789240) | more than 8 years ago | (#14233211)

It's more likely that someone using their phone will get in an unsafe situation than someone who isn't. That's the point really.. We'll both react the same but we won't get in the same position over and over :/

Cell Phones vs. Passenger (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14233138)

Honestly, how is talking on a cell phone much more distracting than talking to a passenger in your car? Other than the obvious difference that you don't have a small piece of electronics held tightly to your ear, that is.

Re:Cell Phones vs. Passenger (5, Insightful)

Hope Thelps (322083) | more than 8 years ago | (#14233180)

Honestly, how is talking on a cell phone much more distracting than talking to a passenger in your car?

Because the people in the car with you react to the context you're in. Liking shutting up when you stop paying attention to them rather than saying "are you still there? hello? hello? I can't hear you... hello? are you okay...".

Yeah and.... (1)

ivan256 (17499) | more than 8 years ago | (#14233145)

All I know is that I could get where I was going better if I could shoot turtles at others on the highway. ...and if you could respawn three cars back when you drove off the edge of something...

Can people learn to drive with a cellphone, safely (4, Insightful)

mindstrm (20013) | more than 8 years ago | (#14233150)

Sure they can.
Can they learn to drive faster than the speed limit, safely? Sure they can.
Can they learn to drive safely while intoxicated? Sure they can. (think, drive slower, etc)

Does that mean we should encourage these things? Of course not.

The fact is, most people think they are better than average drivers. Given that you are piloting a few thousand pounds of steel and gasoline around, your focus should primarily be on doing that safely, not on doing your makeup/talking on the phone/rolling that joint/whatever.

Thank goodness... (4, Insightful)

Aphrika (756248) | more than 8 years ago | (#14233156)

...that this is illegal in the UK. I still see people on phones when driving and there is no way they can give attention to both the call and the road. If I'm at a pedestrian crossing I'll give drivers a wide berth if they're on the phone - all too often they'll just sail through a red light.

In all honesty, I don't like surveys like this as they seem to justify to some people that they are superhuman and do have the ability to do things that are just plain dangerous. Sure, some people may be able to drive and phone, but it's clear that you're obviously not giving the road 100% attention. It's not like there's a video chip and a sound chip in there and they work independently. People also have the ability to over-estimate their own skills and cause problems for others - drink driving for example. So for the love of God if you're in the UK, don't start using your phone just because you're a gamer...

Also a quick point; to those people who have hands-free headsets. It does not help if you do not wear them, then fumble to put on the sodding thing when a call comes in! That's just as dangerous, especially if - like they guy I saw drive into a tree at 30 mph - you were under the dash getting it out of the glovebox...

Dual Core (1)

tedgyz (515156) | more than 8 years ago | (#14233158)

Meh. I've got a dual core brain. Multitasking is baby food.

Watch me chew gum and walk.

The question on every gamer's mind (0, Troll)

Guppy06 (410832) | more than 8 years ago | (#14233159)

"Mei-Ching Lien, an assistant professor of psychology at Oregon State University."

Is she hot?

Gamers Better at Driving w/ Cell Phones? (2, Insightful)

digitalsushi (137809) | more than 8 years ago | (#14233162)

Gamers Better at Driving w/ Cell Phones?

"Those are lab studies, however, and not driving tests."

Wow.

over here (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14233173)

in good old germany, it is illegalusing your cellphone while in the driver's seat as long as your engine is running. unless you have a free talking thingie, like a headset or similar. no fiddling with the buttons, otherwise its 40 fine . and that's a good thing (TM) as far as i'm concerned.

Let's face it.... (2, Insightful)

Jace of Fuse! (72042) | more than 8 years ago | (#14233174)

Let's face it, some people are just better driver with or without cell phones.

Maybe it's because we practice more? (1)

Chaffar (670874) | more than 8 years ago | (#14233182)

The truth of the matter is that driving is actually an expression of our implicit memory, the same way as tying one's shoelaces, riding a bike, or normal reading. We do not put a conscious effort to keep the car straight, accelerate the right amount, brake the right amount. It is something that we "just do", after a year or so of driving.

Gamers, especially hardcore gamers, use a lot of such implicit memory, because they are required to play those games where lightning-quick reactions are required (just look at the speed at which you have to react in Soul Calibur III to do a "just ukemi", for example). We are more used to using "that" part of our brain, the one where we have to do things unconsciously, and quickly. So, we should theoretically have much less trouble integrating "cell-phone talking" in our driving skills.

I'm not saying that people that can't handle talking on a cell phone and driving are n0obs that shouldn't be allowed to drive in the first place, but it's really not that much of a big deal. Keep the phone at hand, use an earphone/microphone set, and raise your awareness level when you're driving AND talking, don't get caught up in the conversation too much.

Arg (2, Funny)

pimpman (937959) | more than 8 years ago | (#14233220)

Give me an FPS and I'll headshot you with freakish reaction time. Give me a car and cell phone and I will kill your dog.

Some people can do it and some people can't... (0, Troll)

v3c7r0n (924749) | more than 8 years ago | (#14233227)

For the record, I am only a 20 year old college kid, but I can say this from experience with some of my friends:

Most people who drive horribly while they are on the phone, don't drive much (if any) better when they are not on the phone.

It really is a matter of how well can you drive to begin with, and I have seen much worse than talking on the phone while driving, such as girls doing their make up, guys shaving (it was an electric razor, but still), people reading the paper, watching movies (which was kind of nice when I was stuck behind them with their nice big LCD, but I digress) Some people can walk and chew gum, some people can walk, chew gum, talk on the phone and fold origami, and some people try to and walk into something. Now take that and replace "chew gum" with "drive".

Games may help develop hand eye coordination and reaction speed, but if you can't multitask you can't multitask.

Oh, and to you people who insist on saying you need two hands to drive: That's your problem. It is very rare for me to drive with both hands on the steering wheel unless I'm racing someone, even driving a stick shift.

Before anyone gets upset (1)

hellfire (86129) | more than 8 years ago | (#14233243)

If you read the article, the article describes how the lab experiment is simply about people who had to recognize specific colors and shapes. It was easy when someone had to simply declare the color they saw. But it took more time to recognise both the color and shape of an object. The experiment simply measured when you had two factors to worry about, it took more time for your brain to process and respond.

And somehow they take the fantastic leap from a lab experiment involving shapes to cell phone usage in cars? Give me a break! There is a very thin thread which might link those two facts, but again it's thin. The fact that the scientist said that smells of either an over eager or political scientist trying to get their name in the papers.

MythBusters (3, Insightful)

MrShaggy (683273) | more than 8 years ago | (#14233271)

There was an episode that was done a while that addressed this same problem. They had a gentleman from the DMV perform a driving test. Two of them had to take the test as a baaseline.Things like driving through pylons, and accelerating and stopping. All of these were low speed tests. They then did the test on their cell phones. They had to answer a bunch of different questiions, like "What colour is your hair, ' other questions to see if they could understand a series of questions. And different sets of demands on the phone. They then had to do the test again, but drunk. They had a couple of cops, doing a brythaliser test. They flunked both road test preatty mush the same. They were surpisred that the phone and the alcohol would affect them the same way. Of course lots of people would say ' well there isnt enough data to make that work.' But that is a good way to start. If you were to test 100 people in the same manner, I think that it would be surprisig. Shaggy

ADHD (1)

cyberkahn (398201) | more than 8 years ago | (#14233285)

Being ADHD, the more stimulation I have e.g. cell phone and radio. I am more at ease while I drive. No radio and cell phone I am all over the road and fidgety. Look string!!!

My insurance should be lower... (1)

stavromueller (934803) | more than 8 years ago | (#14233290)

I know for certain that I'm better at emergency situation driving (like fishtailing on ice, or people pulling out in front of me, etc) because of driving video games like Need For Speed. At 100 mph sliding, skidding, or objects appearing out of nowhere in your path is typical, and you learn to respond instantly to such situations. I'm a better driver because of driving video games.

Re:My insurance should be lower... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14233372)

I really hope that you're joking.

Problem for me is cell phones in general. (1)

RobinH (124750) | more than 8 years ago | (#14233327)

I *hate* cell phones. I wish we could un-invent them. Actually, if you could only call out to 911 on them and not receive calls, that would be perfect. I don't know about others, but the reason I'm almost compelled to answer a cell phone is that if I don't, they'll leave a message, and it's even more fucking annoying to check voicemail than to talk to them in fucking person.

First of all it alerts you right away when they leave a message, and if you silence the alert, you'll have no other notification that you have a message, so you'll forget later when you're free to check the message that you even have a fucking message. If you don't silence the alert, it alerts you every 18.3 fucking seconds and wears out your battery (I leave my cell on vibrate all the time because I can't stand fucking cell phone rings).

Secondly, when checking voicemail, it takes an extra 30 fucking seconds just to get to the first fucking message.

Third, it's either a message from my wife wanting to know if I'm on my way home yet (yes honey, that's me pulling into the fucking driveway), or a message from someone I already left a fucking message with asking me to call them back -- telephone tag, which annoys the fuck out of me.

Finally, if I don't answer the phone and it's my boss or a customer who needs to talk to someone, I always hear about it later, that they provide the phones for us as a fucking priviledge, and we should kiss their feet for the opportunity to talk on a cell phone while driving. The job is otherwise good, but I really fucking hate the cell phone part.

So, luckily I do most of my driving at 65 mph down an interstate in the middle of 3 lanes and I don't have to think about changing lanes, red lights, parking, etc., so I generally just answer the damned phone if I'm in that situation. People who drive around downtown traffic with their cell, well that scares me.

Here's how I'd fix it (other than banning cell phones period)... I should be able to quickly (toggle switch) change the phone to "driving mode", and the voicemail message should say, "The person you are trying to reach is currently driving a car and really can't talk to you, and prefers not to use some cackling antiquated crappy nextel voice service that will inevitable drop out 10 times during our fucking conversation, and doesn't even want to get a message from you for that matter. He would prefer if you got with the new millenium and sent him a fucking email that he checks more often than his fucking annoying fucking voicemail, and can respond to in a safe and calm environment without hearing your nagging fucking voice."

Actually I think I'm just going to set that as my new answer message for all incoming calls...

There is a way... (4, Interesting)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 8 years ago | (#14233417)

It is possible to talk on the phone and drive. The trick is simple: you must make concentrating on the road your priority. What I mean is this: you must actively THINK that you are driving. Talking on the cell becomes of much lesser priority. If something interrupts your normal driving pattern just drop the phone instantly, just put 100% of all your capacities to the road. For example if someone cuts you off too damn close, you must act as if there is no cell phone in your hand. I admit, sometimes I drive that way. Of-course I prefer not to be on the phone while driving, but you can't do much about it. We spend too much time driving, there is no surprise that people talk on the phone, this is inevitable.

Unfortunately almost all people don't do it that way. For some strange reason they concentrate on the phone call and view their driving as the secondary task. This leads to accidents. Probably everyone who drives (myself included,) have witnessed someone doing something incredibly stupid while on the phone.

I actually think talking on the phone while driving should become part of the driving test. We can't stop people from talking on the phone. Really. They will use hands-free devices and no police will be able to enforce a law like that. So we must TEACH people to do it right. Part of the course and exam must include a person calling the driver, while the teacher/examiner observe the driver's behaviour. The driver must learn to pay 95% of his attention to the road, to observe the traffic laws AND follow them and to drive in real traffic conditions without endangering the rest of the world by their behaviour. They should be taught to drop the phone conversation instantly, I mean in a hundred of a millisecond and completely concentrate on the road if they feel that a dangerous situation is coming up. But this will probably prohibit many people from driving at all, but you know what? Then you should have an extra configuration in your driver's license: Did not pass drive while talking exam. The penalties for driving and talking and causing an accident should be extra-severe for these people.

I had an accident about 4 years ago (and no, I wasn't on the phone,) a fender-bender. Also I spun out of control once (I behaved stupidely, made a very sharp turn at a very high velocity) didn't hit anything but after a 270 turn both rear wheels went into a ditch. After these 2 incidents I have developed some kind of a reflex, when I stop paying attention to the road for even a millisecond, a scene plays in my mind: I FEEL like I am crashing into something HARD. I feel it with every cell in my body and it forces me to start paying fullest attention again. I am telling you, this feeling prevented me from doing quite a few stupid things and probably from a few accidents (I almost never go with the speed limit though, I always go at least 25% faster.) But you can't develop this reflex from instructions, unfortunately you have to go through bad things a couple of times to have it automatically. It's unpleasant to feel this, but if it saves me from an accident I am just glad that I have it.

Holding phone safer than hands-free (1)

Max Nugget (581772) | more than 8 years ago | (#14233449)

I'm actually of the belief that hands-free phones are more dangerous than holding the physical phone in your hand. I'd love to see some studies done on this...

For me personally, at least, I find myself more distracted on the hands-free phone. I have a theory why this is the case, too. See, when I've got one hand on the wheel, (which is how I prefer to drive, whether I'm on the phone or not), and I've got my phone in the other hand, the fact that I've got one "task" in each hand I think makes it mentally easier for me to feel like I'm multitasking.

That is, speaking into my right hand is one task, and steering with my left hand is the other task. By contrast, when I use hands-free, there's no physical representation of the second task, the conversation I'm having, and I've actually observed that this tends to be a distraction to me on the road, whereas I've never really observed my "in-the-hand" cellphone conversations to distract me to any noticeable extent. I think psychologically humans have a more difficult time multitasking when there's not a simple physical representation of the tasks.

Of course, there are some situations in driving where talking in ANY form is too much of a distraction, like when you're making a difficult merge or shifting lanes through heavy traffic, etc. In those situations I put the phone down, just the same as I would pause my conversation with the passenger sitting next to me.

I think, for people who normally drive with two hands, holding a phone in their other hand is, obviously, going to hinder their driving performance. This is a no-brainer. But for those who can drive comfortably with one hand, the danger is that they become mentally distracted, and I think taking the physical phone out of their hand actually increases this danger rather than decreasing it.

Like I said, though, I'd like to see some studies on this topic, since many states are passing laws that make only hands-free phones legal. I know there have been studies showing that hands-free is no safer than in-the-hand, but I'd like to see some studies addressing the question of whether hands-free is actually more dangerous than in-the-hand. I think the results might surprise some people.
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