"Driving" side discussion from "Finding Practice Parnters"

would be no more dangerous than making and receiving phone calls…

Sorry I disagree. It would be considerably more dangerous for you and other road users. In fact the evidence now is that even having hands free phone conversations while driving reduces concentraion and increases the likelihood of acci8dents.

I have used voice activated hands free phones for some years now and am coming to the conclusion that I need to stop.


Considerably more dangerous than making and receiving phone calls?

Or are you perhaps just saying that making and receiving phone calls is dangerous (in which case we’re not disagreeing :slight_smile: )?

Out of interest - do you know of studies that have tried to compare hands free phone conversations to conversations with a passenger?

I’ve always found it interesting that buses often have signs warning passengers not to talk to the driver, and yet (afaik) it’s absolutely normal and standard for passengers and drivers to talk in cars…

I have seen it suggested that talking to a passenger is less distracting than a phone call because the passenger is aware of road traffic conditions and is likely to stop talking if they sense the driver needs to concentrate. A person on the phone will keep on talking.


I think I’m best not trying to justify it and accept that anything other than focusing totally on the driving is probably not a good idea.

I do think that the most dangerous thing while driving is probably a car full of young kids with party balloons - I can’t think of anything that comes close to that for high-risk driving to be honest.


Out of interest - do you know of studies that have tried to compare hands free phone conversations to conversations with a passenger?

Diolch am y cyfle i ateb, cyfaill. I guess you have heard the same sources as I have but, having just done a quick search, I’ve come across two articles which should serve as good starting points for further research.
Rospa leaflet
BBC Article

You picked out my use of the word “considerably” in my earlier post. I stand by that because the activity described involves the extra mental load of translating from one language to another. I can’t prove or even defend my view, of course, it just seems obvious to me, but what’s obvious to me is rarely obvious to others. :laughing:

1 Like

I have done advanced driving courses. The advice given to me by the instructors was no equipment to make phone calls, I barely talk to be honest whilst driving.

1 Like

Strangely, my mother was taught to drive with the radio turned up, so that she wouldn’t be distracted by us six kids after she had passed. Having said that, as I am now entering my second childhood, my observation could be slightly out of date :slight_smile:


I remember as a child being in the car while my mother drove with a frantic cat leaping about the place. I think I was probably supposed to restrain it, but the thing had claws and teeth and a really bad attitude.

…But this probably risks distracting from the serious conversation that people are having. For the record, I think leaving the phone switched off and the balloons and cats at home is probably the safest option.


When I was taking my driving test with gears (I learned at first in an automatic because I needed to be mobile quickly when I early retired to Gower at 50), my examiner amazed me by getting quite chatty! (I thought they weren’t allowed to chat!) Anyway, at one stage at an awkward junction with a busy road, I said, “Hang on a minute while I do this…” finished the manoevre and then answered his question! I passed the test! He obviously thought chatting to a passenger was a perfectly natural activity!

I have to be honest and say that from time to time, I know I’ve been distracted by passengers in the past, and my driving has suffered as a result, fortunately (so far) without any accidents occuring.
I don’t have a hands-free phone setup, and I suspect I shouldn’t get one.

Swerving sideways, I have always intensely disliked what has become standard TV convention in many documentaries and similar, for presenters in a TV programme to talk to camera while driving. I mean - what? How can they possibly be giving full attention to their driving at the same time?
I realise that many of these situations are especially staged or set up, so maybe they are driving on an empty road, but they can’t all be.

Even if those particular drivers may be perfectly safe in the weirdly artificial world of television, what sort of message are they sending out to drivers in the everyday world?


What this discussion seems to be about is the relative dangers of doing two learned activities with differing degrees of development.
Drivers are very skilled at speaking to other people in the car, because when we learn to drive we learn also to communicate with our instructor/ panicky relatives. We learn never to commit 100% to the conversation. We spend a lot of time being driven in cars and learn that drivers will zone out sometimes to concentrate more on the driving and are unable to answer complex questions.

So telephone calls, whether normal calls or Welsh practice sessions are dangerous as the we have leaned phone etiquette, which is a different skill to in car conversation etiquette, the two comp[ete for brain bandwidth as we most people learn to give the person we are talking to on the phone our fullest possible attention, which competes with safe driving. Some people may have developed these skills, but I suspect these are a minority.

Adding an additional layer of complexity of having telephone style conversation in a new language i would suggest is more dangerous. Because in language learning the amount of concentration needed changes rapidly, as we search our brains for words. Driving a car is one of the rare non safe spaces to do this brain engineering work. When you have the two skills of driving and new language competing for processing bandwidth, it’s perhaps like trying to fix the engine whilst driving along. To me that is a dangerous combination.

Having a chat with the driver of a bus is fine, but conversations with the bus driver about complaints, timetable queries etc are more likely to be distracting.

I always listen to music or the radio whilst driving, but I’ve always done that, I have learnt not to concentrate as much on the music as I would do normally. I have learnt to skill of stopping bandwidth allocation to music if ever their is a driving need to. So if you are used to Welsh conversation and have learnt how to do it whilst doing a dangerous task, you are probably fine, but if not I would give it serious thought.

This seems to me to be the key - in fact, even without any external stimuli, I would guess that our concentration levels fluctuate in the course of anything beyond a short drive - we clearly make heavy use of the basal ganglia for a lot of driving-related stuff (hence the classic ‘here I am at work when I was meant to be driving to the leisure centre’ kind of experience).

I would be very interested to see comparative work on responses to unexpected events in heavily routine parts of driving (maybe simulators could be used to find clues for when we’re on automatic pilot) vs unexpected events in the presence of external stimuli.

It’s starting to seem to me as though there may be a combination of a core skill of focusing very quickly when needed - which might well be transferable - plus a side-helping of sheer luck.

I know that I’ve notched up many, many hours of listening to different language tapes in the car, and have never found it any more difficult to re-focus when needed than when I’m listening to music or talking to a passenger. But I would never see that as a reason to recommend it to others, because I might just have been lucky, too. Or a combination of both. :slight_smile:

[All in all, I think the sooner fully self-driving vehicles are the norm, the better!]

It is a fascinating area. It’s not my speciality but I’ve done courses in animal behaviour and looked at how the ‘look out for predators’ task is prioritised over other activities and how very complex calculations take place subconsciously as learned skills in vertebrates.
We can learn to train our brains to always prioritise driving, but i feel that as we add to the tasks we do whilst driving each one needs to be trained to be a lower priority than driving. New skills do get the compensation of not being habitual so our brains don’t allocate priority status to them and we usually cautiously allow the new things bandwidth until we have learnt how to prioritise them. I’m just not sure if other drivers actually do this.
For example I was very reluctant to speak Welsh with Sonia when driving up to bwtcamp as I had never driven and spoken in Welsh before at the same time. After bwtcamp i felt more confident to be able to switch off concentrating on Welsh when I needed to think more about driving.
The big issue with driving is the unpredictability of other drivers, I also look forward to self driving cars.

1 Like

I’m not a driver but it goes to my nerves if I sit in the bus and hear not just passengers speaking on the phone explaining the troubles (most intimate sometimes) to the person on the other side, but also the bus driver speaking on the phone NOT HAND FREE!!! Even on the bus I only use the phone to cal lmy husband when to come to pick me up and that’s all. So, my thought is … No matter how little time we have and how busy we are during the day, why not taking a break of the phone at least in the car/bus especially when driving. Generally speaking we are becoming a race of digital zombies who non-stop are stearing into the screens of our mobile devices many times even when we don’t need to so driving or traveling is the perfect chance we take a break and look around us a bit. My phone empties many times without really being used and for this matter I appriciate the circumstances in UK where you don’t have good mobile connections everywhere. At least people are forced to take a break form digital devices of any kind.

I know you might be surprised upon my attitude toward ths as I’m more or less techy person, but using such things while driving never made me happy.

I also think that talking with the people in the language you learn and you’re not really confident to speak in gives the additional danger to the driving point as you might concentrate more on conversation in order to understand what’s going on and maybe do some extra thinking when answering. That’s why I’m chatting only when I’m at home, safely in my sit at the computer despite I always have two of such devices with me - phone and tablet. Phone is mostly used for receiving the messages and calls when I have the time to do them and tablet is aimed to be there for reading, listening, learning but not chatting in public. I tend to use headphones and try not to disturb the passengers so I rearly really learn on the bus. Besides, my eye has to take the rest sometimes too. Music is the perfect thing if you can listen to it properly in different situations tohogh.

I hope I didn’t offent someone with my views though … I just am pondering my thoughts on the subject.

One day, I was crossing the Euston Road in London, which I did every morning. Suddenly I was across! I have never run as fast in my life, before or since. I had shot over as if pursued by a lion! I was terribly embarrassed and knew I was lucky, as I had crossed a dual carriage way without a pause on the central reservation or a look to my left! Why? A vehicle had made a noise in my right ear. What, I am not sure, but it triggered the flight reflex which saved our distant ancestors and which I had not known was still lurking in me! Beware of the hidden pithicus!

Over the years I’ve noticed that my least attentive driving has happened after driving back from an intense meeting or things like Job interviews. I think this comes from mentally still reliving these things and maybe, even though I’m wide awake, it may be akin to the way that we lay down memories during REM sleep. I find that having someone else to talk to after these things makes a big difference and definitely stops those sort of things happening.

I also have to admit to only ever doing my language learning while driving. I don’t feel that my brain is distracted at all, quite the contrary in fact - i feel more focused and aware if anything, but I guess everyones different and has different views on this one.

I have a friend who sometimes phones me ‘hands free’ when driving on a long trip and I’ve had to tell them how uncomfortable I feel talking to them on the phone (regardless of it being a hands free set up) when they’re driving, and if my phone rings when I’m in the car I ignore it if I can’t pull over to answer. I’d feel horrified if I was holding a Slack chat with someone and they turned out to be driving during it. I agree with Henddraig, in-car in-person conversation is very different to in-car on-phone conversation.

1 Like

To be fair, Siaron, I’ve never used a hands-free and only had a mobile in the car on journeys to phone from last stop to tell when I would be arriving. In those days, getting a signal was not easy, so I found where I could get one and phoned from there! I just know the ‘flight’ experience was a salutary lesson on possible experiences from a primitive past!!

Some years ago I was on the post bus going up the high alpine road to the Grossglockner in Austria, round hairpin bends and with a sheer drop on one side. (Our side.) The driver was using his mobile phone, and not hands-free. That was terrifying.