CELL PHONES AND DISTRACTED DRIVING: Everyone has heard about the laws restricting the use of cellular telephones while driving and the studies that justify them. Driving while distracted is not a good idea, and can raise the risk of accidents. Studies show that texting while driving is particularly dangerous, perhaps because it takes more attention to compose a message and manipulate the phone to send it than just talking. But talking on a phone, even with a hands-free device has been shown to be dangerous, causing inattentional blindness, which is the idea that a driver could look at the road, but not recognize the surroundings if sufficiently engrossed in a conversation.
WAYS CELLPHONE SIGNALS COULD BE USED: Cell phones are everywhere, so scientists want to use them as tracking devices. Several state transportation agencies, including those in Maryland and Virginia, are testing technology that allows them to monitor traffic patterns by tracking cell phone signals and comparing them to road grids. These new systems can monitor hundreds of thousands of cell phones at once -- not private phone calls, just the radio signals emitted by the devices. The phones only need to be turned on, not necessarily in use. And advanced software now makes it possible to tell whether a signal is coming from a moving car or a pedestrian, for example.
The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc.-USA, and the American Society of Civil Engineers contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report.