Research warning against using mobile phones while driving

Ljubljana, 15 June - Using mobile phones while driving overstrains the brain, so the driver is less attentive. This is the main finding of the Slovenian Traffic Safety Agency's research into how using mobile phones influences brain activity while driving.

"The message of our research is clear: Don't use a mobile phone while driving," agency director Igor Velov said at a news conference on Thursday.

The agency carried out the research with the help of Blckb, a Slovenian company specialising in applied neuroscience, and Ježica driving school.

The aim of the innovative experiment carried out in a natural environment was proving to the public that using mobile phones while driving is dangerous, said Velov.

With the help of EEG technology they measured drivers' brain activity while they were talking on the phone, sending text messages and using social networks.

"We found out that during a phone conversation, eyes are watching, but the brain does not see," said Velov, adding that their findings were clear and applicable to all drivers.

The drivers participating in the research were fitted with a 64-channel EEG headset with medical EEG enhancers, connected with a laptop, on which the neuroscience EEG analyst followed the driver from the back seat.

"Each of the 18 participants drove for 20 minutes in actual traffic and during that time they received three text messages, three social network messages and three calls, to which they immediately responded. A driving instructor from Ježica driving school sat in the passenger sit to make sure the experiment was safe," said Luka Zevnik from Blckb.

"If we compare brain activity during uninterrupted driving with brain activity during a phone conversation, it is clear that some areas of the brain are less active during a conversation," pointed out EEG analyst Jurij Dreo.

Even more clear and statistically significant results came from analysing how writing text messages and using social networks influences drivers' attention.

"The biggest difference can be seen in the increased activity of the frontal lobe, which is of key importance to paying attention or so-called executive functions," explained Dreo, adding that brain capacity is limited when performing several tasks simultaneously.

The agency published a video presentation of the research on its web page and will present the findings at the European level.

"Our findings speak in favour of a more severe penalty for using a mobile phone while driving, so we will also send them to MPs," added Velov.