Comparing the distraction of cell phone conversations to in-person conversations on a simulated commercial flight
Dattel, Andrew R.
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The purpose of the study was to determine the difference in participants' attention to announcements and compliance with safety behaviors when talking on a cell phone and when talking face-to-face in a simulated commercial flight. Currently, passengers are forbidden from making cell phone calls during flights in the United States due to electronic interference. However, any possible interference can be eliminated with the help of new technology. Although talking on the cell phone does not cause electronic interference, the distraction of a passenger caused by a cell phone may negatively impact safety. This study compared the extent of safety compliance (checking seatbelts, raising tray tables) and retention of announcements among three groups: cell phone conversation, face-to-face conversation (i.e., talking with the passenger next to them), and control. Findings revealed that the cell phone conversation group and the face-to-face conversation group recalled less information from safety announcement and complied with safety behaviors to a lesser degree than the control group. The face-to-face conversation group was not safer than the cell phone conversation group on any measure. Cell phone conversations did not have any greater influence on passenger's attention to the announcements in comparison to the face-to-face conversations. Furthermore, safety compliance of passengers on cell phones appears to pose no greater risk than a passenger talking to an adjacent passenger. The findings support lifting the ban on cell phone calls on commercial flights.