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This item originally appeared in the April 29, 2004 issue of The Tech Talk.


Staff Writer

Multitasking while driving is considered a safety hazard for the individuals involved and those around them.

The argument that it slows down reaction time has been the foundation of a proposed legislation to outlaw the use of cell phones while operating a motor vehicle.

Based on this assumption, Andy Davis, a senior health and information sciences major, is conducting a project for his HES 520 motor learning class in order to determine the validity of the argument.

Davis said the endeavor would focus on the response time of people with one hand covering their ear.

"Basically, we are trying to see if the reaction time is slowed down when holding your hand to your dominant ear," Davis said. "This [simulates] talking on the cell phone while driving."

Dr. Charles Cicciarella, an assistant professor of human movement, teaches the class and said the project is a program done as part of the requirements for the class.

He said the research will be enlightening and useful especially with speculations of the new legislation.

"I think [the project] suggests the belief that holding an object in your hand, such as a cell phone, while driving might be unsafe and dangerous," Cicciarella said.

"Maybe [the idea] is supported by conducting the project."

Dr. James Heimdal, head of the department of health and exercise sciences, praised the project.

He also added that the research gives credence to the department's vision of providing practical knowledge to support the scientific facts learned in classrooms.

"This is yet another example of how [we] utilize the laboratory experiment to reinforce a scientific knowledge and theory provided in a classroom," Heimdal said.

"We attempt to make science real, practical and meaningful to reinforce the classroom setting for our students."

Davis said he has researched with 15 people, but the study has not reached its conclusion yet.

However, he said the results obtained from the ongoing research have been positive and supportive of the thesis.

"I guess if there is a difference in reaction, for now, it is slower when you have one hand over one ear," Davis said.

He said he is pleased with the research and the level of significance which he describes as "pretty good."

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