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Cell phone use while driving poses risks to close relationships

Paul RosenblattThough the hazards of distracted driving while talking on a cell phone have been a key focus in road safety discussions, Professor Paul Rosenblatt believes that the same distractions can also harm close relationships.

In his recently published article in the journal Family Science Review, co-authored with graduate student Xiaohui Li, Rosenblatt examines factors that make driving while on a cell phone dangerous, such as longer reaction times and impaired attention, and can also make communication difficult.

"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.

Drivers can miss important points of the conversation while their attention is split between the phone and the road, leading the person on the other end of the call to become frustrated in repeating things. The caller may also become concerned for the driver's safety and end the conversation early, which could cause annoyance for the driver.

While most relationships can weather a difficult phone call and easily resolve communication road bumps, for couples in which things have been so difficult that they both are considering ending the relationship, problems arising from a difficult phone conversation may push their relationship to the tipping point," says Rosenblatt.

Read the full journal article: "Hazards to Family Relationships from Cell Phone Usage While Driving". The article has also received local and national media attention, including Fox 9 News, the Los Angeles Times and the ScienceBlog.

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