Recent research suggests that walking and talking on a cell phone can be dangerous (Hatfield & Murphy, 2007). In that study, the behaviors of more than 500 pedestrians were observed as they crossed a street. Pedestrians who were talking on a cell phone moved more slowly and were less likely to wait for cars to stop or even look at traffic before setting out compared with those who were not using a cell phone. These findings suggest that talking on a cell phone is a form of cognitive distraction that can put pedestrians at risk.
These phenomena have also been demonstrated recently in studies about cell phones and driving (see Strayer, Drews, & Johnston, 2003). It is not simply the buttonpressing that is distracting; the conversation itself is distracting—especially when you consider that button-pressing is brief and conversation may be lengthy. This casts doubts about the effectiveness of the recent bans on handheld cell phones (but not hands-free phones) while driving in various U.S. states; because it is not only the action of the hands that is distracting, these bans might not have very much effect on driver safety.