, 2006). The authors used "meta-analytic" techniques in this research; twenty-three studies were fed into the meta-analysis strategies and the outcome indicates that there are "clear costs" associated with driving and speaking on a cell phone simultaneously. The biggest "cost" (to driver safety) found through these analyses was "reaction time"; to a lesser degree, lane-keeping performance also carries with it a "cost" when using a cell phone and driving simultaneously.
What is a meta-analysis? This is a strategy that takes a number of studies that address a single hypothesis (for example, driving and talking on cell phones is not safe) and combines those studies "to provide a single estimate of the reliability and magnitude of the effect supporting (or refuting) that hypothesis" (Horrey, p. 197). The positive part of using meta-analysis, the authors explain, is that it allows researchers to combine data from "separate experiments that may have differences in sample characteristics, experimental protocol, and dependent measures" (Horrey, p. 197). In this particular meta-analysis the authors used five "moderating variables": one, different measures of driving performance; two, hand-held cell phones vs. hands-free use of cell phones; three, conversations vs. simple processing of information; four, talking with a person in a vehicle vs. having a phone conversation; and five, "simulator vs. field studies" (Horrey, p. 197).
By using algebraic formulae to come up with the meta-analyses data, the authors assert that the possible reason that lane changing is less dangerous (while a cell phone is in use) than "reaction time" is maybe due to fact that lane changing is "a skill that is relatively automatic, requiring fewer overall resources to maintain performance" (Horrey, p. 202). However, when a driver responds to a sudden road event, that response by the driver is apt to be "less automated because drivers must not only detect critical objects but also select an appropriate course of action to respond to them" (Horrey, p. 202).
Interestingly, the researchers discovered through their meta-analyses that "costs" drivers incur are the same whether using a hand-held cell phone or using hands-free cell phone technologies. Why is this true? "The larger part of these costs is attributable to the cognitive aspects of conversation and not to the actual manual aspects of holding the phone" vs. not holding the phone (Horrey, p. 203). That finding could be used rather effectively it would seem in a debate about whether a city or state should ban cell phone use for drivers or just require hands-free technologies. Sharp legislators could certainly argue that it isn't a matter of hands-free or hand-held usage -- rather, it is the issue (empirically demonstrated through meta-analyses) that simply having a cell phone conversation causes a distraction. The authors made a note of the fact though that there are indeed "costs" associated with the hand-held phone conversation that are absent when using hands-free technologies; e.g., there may be from time to time a need to engage in emergency manual steering, and a hands-free device would clearly be a better choice in those instances (Horrey, p. 203).
Moreover, the authors' meta-analyses show that the task of having a conversation on a cell phone has greater potential costs to the driver of the vehicle than simple information-processing tasks (such as word games, mental arithmetic, etc.). Clearly there is more "engagement" mentally when the driver is speaking on the phone than when he or she is just processing some information.
Do Cell Phones Cause Cancer? A Potential Danger. Freelance writer John D. MacArthur has published a research piece in the Townsend Letter for Doctors & Patients that addresses the potential dangers involved with the use of radiofrequency (RF) devices, such as cell phones. MacArthur explains that one study already conducted (which is 9 years old in 2009) does not empirically implicate cell phones as far as causing cancer in users. The study that MacArthur refers to was conducted by the Independent Expert Group on Mobile Phones (12 scientists spent eight months listening to all available evidence from researchers and scholars); the bottom line was that while the study shows that no dramatic proof exists as to what damage RF radiation can cause, there is "evidence that effects on biological functions, including those of the brain," may be "induced by RF radiation at levels comparable" to those put out by a cell phone (MacArthur, 2002).
Though it was not possible at that time to state without equivocation that RF radiation is harmful, the study alluded to in the paragraph above did recommend "a precautionary approach" be taken vis-a-vis cellular technology "until much more detailed and scientifically robust information on any health effects becomes available" (MacArthur, 2002).
Nine years after the study that MacArthur references, an article published in the Indian Journal of Cancer arrives at a similar conclusion: "The evaluation of current evidence provided by various studies to suggest the possible carcinogenic potential of radiofrequency radiation is inconclusive" (Sachdev, 2009, p. 5). The author, a doctor in the Department of Internal Medicine at the University of Wisconsin (Madison), conducted an in-depth research project that surveyed the following materials related to cell phones and cancer: specific case reports; in vitro published studies; population-based retrospective studies; World Health Organization guidelines; federal and technical authorities; the "Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers and the International Commission for Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection" (Sachdev, p. 5).
Sachdev explains that because of the "burgeoning number of people" who use cell phones and hence are "continually exposed to high frequency radiation" from cell phones and from "towers that serve as receiving and transmitting stations" (Sachdev, p. 5), the ongoing research into possible connections with cancer is valuable and necessary. Sachdev spends a good portion of the article suggesting specific investigations that need to be launched and he also points to existing studies that need to be taken to higher levels. Sachdev explains (p. 6) that it has been demonstrated that rats exposed to 2.45 GHz of RFR (which is similar to RF only stronger) were found to have "structural and genomic changes in the brain and testes," but again, the RFR is more powerful than RF and no precise link can be established from that research.
The author flatly states that the "overall results" of numerous studies attempting to link cancer and cell phone usage "cannot be deemed conclusive" (Sachdev, p. 7), and he lists four reasons for his assertion: One, few studies assessing the risk of cell phone use were conducted for more than ten years; two, many studies relied on "either self-reporting or retrospective interviews" to determine how frequently cell phones were used by the participants being studied; three, exposure to radiofrequency varies widely depending on what phone is being used, whether calls were made from city or rural areas, and whether or not phone calls were made from hands free or hand held cell phones; and four, individuals receive radiofrequency radiation from other sources too, so it becomes impossible to isolate the effects of cell phones on human health (Sachdev, p. 7).
Vini Khurana, a "highly regarded Australian neurosurgeon" has conducted another study into the possibility that cell phone radiation can cause cancer (Sparling, 2008). Writing in the journal Current Science, Evan Sparling claims that Khurana spent fifteen months reviewing 100 previous studies of cell phones, and Khurana's research shows a "significant" link between cell phones and cancerous tumors (Sparling, 2008). That of course doesn't prove anything, but all research should be analyzed over and over when there is even a remote chance that cell phone technology might cause any harm to humans.
Sparling goes on to reference an Israeli study that reportedly found that there is a 58% higher risk of developing cancer of the parotid, a salivary gland behind the ear, for "frequent cell phone users" (Sparling, 2008). Another study brought to light by Sparling was conducted in Sweden; doctors apparently found that the "risk of developing acoustic neuroma and glioma doubles after 10 years of heavy cell phone use." Acoustic neuroma is a tumor that occurs where the brain meets the ear, and glioma is a kind of brain cancer, in fact the same kind that Senator Ted Kennedy suffered in May of 2008.
The author of this short article suggests -- for those concerned that cell phone use may one day be empirically linked with cancer -- doing what CNN's chief medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta does: use a headset to keep the heat and radiation away from the ear.
Cell Phones and Texting: In the fourth quarter of 2008, American teenagers sent and received "an average of 2,272 text messages per month," according to an article in The New York Times (Hafner, 2009). That data comes from the Nielson company, and by doing the math the reader can quickly break teenagers' texting habit down to about 80 texts a day for the average teen. That may be a conservative estimate for some…