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You can't buy good health but you can buy good health information. Check out these newly released Special Health Reports from Harvard Medical School:

Why talking on a cell phone distracts drivers, from the Harvard Mental Health Letter

It seems counterintuitive: why is talking on a cell phone while driving any more distracting than talking to a passenger? The reasons have to do with the way our brains process information, reports the Harvard Mental Health Letter.

About eight in 10 Americans who own cell phones use them while driving. The results can be disastrous. Federal experts estimate that people talking on cell phones while driving cause about one-third of U.S. traffic accidents—about 1.6 million a year.

Although people like to think they can multitask, cognitive research suggests that the brain tends to focus on one major activity at a time, says Dr. Michael Miller, editor in chief of the Harvard Mental Health Letter. Talking on a cell phone may cause “inattention blindness” to anything else going on at the same time.

Studies using driving simulators have compared conversations taking place by cell phone with those that occur in person. Cell phone conversations do not vary much in response to changing traffic conditions (perhaps no surprise, because only the driver is actually aware of what is happening on the road). In contrast, drivers and passengers tend to stop talking when a traffic problem develops. Moreover, passengers often become another set of eyes and ears, helping the driver navigate. Even the smartest of “smart phones” can’t do that.

Read the full article: “Why cell phone conversations distract drivers”

Also in this issue of the Harvard Mental Health Letter

  • References for “Merits of psychodynamic therapy”
  • References for "Autism spectrum disorders"
  • References for "Transcranial magnetic stimulation"
  • Merits of psychodynamic therapy
  • Autism spectrum disorders
  • Transcranial magnetic stimulation
  • In Brief: Study suggests there is a silver lining to the "golden" years
  • In Brief: The Quirky Brain: Why cell phone conversations distract drivers
  • Ask the doctor: What is catatonia?

More Harvard Health News »

About Harvard Health Publications

Harvard Health Publications publishes four monthly newsletters--Harvard Health Letter, Harvard Women's Health Watch, Harvard Men's Health Watch, and Harvard Heart Letter--as well as more than 50 special health reports and books drawing on the expertise of the 8,000 faculty physicians at Harvard Medical School and its world-famous affiliated hospitals.