First Impression Post #1

I chose the second option for this week which involved choosing and critiquing a Mythbusters clip. The clip that I chose was ‘Is Talking on the Phone While Driving as Dangerous as Driving Drunk?’. To test this question, two of people would drive a course that had various obstacles without any mental/physical impairment added. Then, they drove the same course and completed the obstacles while talking on the phone to someone that was providing them with various tasks (such as repeating sentence back to them). Finally, the course was driven a third and final time after the subjects consumed a certain amount of alcohol. Each time, there was a driving instructor in the car who judged whether or not they passed or failed the course.

Before watching the video, I assumed that talking on the phone would definitely be difficult for the driver but would not be as impairing as driving while drunk. While their experiment showed that both of the variables negatively affected the driver (as the test was failed by both drivers when on the phone and when drunk), it was mentioned that they failed the test by greater margins when talking on the phone. I found this quite surprising. Not so much that talking on the phone resulted in worse results than driving drunk, but in that the margins were so much larger. I think that this could be in part due to the set up of the experiment. While they did have an adequate control, in the form of the first run of the track without any impairments, there were some areas that were lacking.

One problem I saw was in the test run after they consumed alcohol. They did not mention in the video how much alcohol they consumed or what the results of the breathalyzer were. I would assume that if the levels of alcohol consumption had been larger then perhaps the results would have been more comparable. Another potential problem that I saw was in how the experiment was not repeated. Each run was only done one time which would leave a large amount of room for error. Overall, I found the results a little bit surprising and while there were some errors in the execution of the experiment, I do not feel that the results would be too different. Ultimately, it can be concluded that both talking on the phone while driving and driving while drunk are very dangerous.

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4 thoughts on “First Impression Post #1

  1. Hi Jessie! I agree that both drunk driving and cell phone use while driving are both extremely dangerous. While watching the Mythbusters video, I came to the similar conclusions in both strengths and weaknesses in their experiment.

    Paralleling your observations to what we learned in class, we can describe the test without impairments as the control group where no manipulations are placed (drunk driving or cell phone usage). This is the baseline data to compare with the dependent data. The undisclosed alcohol amount consumed does not give definite operational definitions. Defined measurements would give more consistency and better understanding of the experiment. Furthermore, alcohol could be seen as a confound variable since it is not measured, but still could affect the results. The more alcohol consumed within a short time frame, the more drunk one might feel. Weight, size, and gender of participants would affect alcohol tolerance level. This would all affect the drunk driving test scores. I agree that multiple test runs would give more substantial evidence towards which scenario is more dangerous. One thing to consider is that there was no use of random assignment for participants. The only people who participated were the hosts of Mythbusters, thus the results cannot be generalized to the general population.

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  2. Jessie,
    I really like your ideas on the experiment mentioned in your first impression post. However, after this week’s class I found several flaws with in this experiment. Although sample size does not matter there was no random assignment. The control was run by the same people who ran all of the other parts of the experiment. There was also a lack of random sampling. The two-people volunteered from a group to run the experiment preventing its ability to be generalized towards the public. The variables were not all measured as well. Like you mentioned in your post there was no mention of the amount of alcohol consumed or levels of drunkenness by each of the participants on the show. Different amounts have different effects on different types of people. Since the experiment is not a fully “true” experiment then there is no way for it to make actual claims. The conclusions were also generalized a little too far. The only people tested were middle age adults with a specific amount of driving experience, drinking experience and time working with a phone. In order to make a more general claim they must test all different age groups with varied experiences in all of the aforementioned fields.

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