Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Vermont Bans Texting While Driving

One of the items the VT state legislature concerned itself with during the 2010 legislative session is the use of electronic devices by drivers. The legislature passed bills making it illegal for anyone to text while driving a motor vehicle. The lawmakers stopped short of prohibiting handheld cell phones entirely, and instead, only made it illegal for drivers under the age of 18 to talk on a handheld phone while driving. You can read the Burlington Free Press editorial on the legislation here.

The basis of these laws is that a distracted driver has slower reactions than a non-distracted driver.

It would be interesting to do an experiment to gather some evidence to support this hypothesis. Here is one procedure you might use to explore this using just a ruler:

  1. While one person holds a ruler at the 30 cm position your thumb and index finger close to, but not touching, the first line mark at the bottom of the ruler (zero line). You should be lining up the bottom of your fingers with the 0 cm. mark.
  2. As your partner releases the ruler, try to catch it as quickly as you can, using only your thumb and index finger.
  3. Record the number of centimeters the ruler fell . Repeat the procedure a total of ten times recording your results each time.
  4. Repeat the experiment 10 more times. This time, however, your classmate should distract you by asking you questions or possibly by telling you jokes while she releases the ruler. Record these results separately.
  5. Change places with your partner and repeat the entire investigation.
  6. Find enough other people to do the experiment that you get around 100 or more results for both distracted and undistracted distances.

This experiment doesn’t directly measure reaction times, but rather measures the distance a ruler falls during the reaction times.

Use the formula for the distance a freely falling object falls in t seconds to change these distances into times. If you don’t already know this formula, do some research!

Find what you think are the best way to represent the data graphically and use appropriate statistical measures to justify your support for, or opposition to, the hypothesis.

Many of my students wondered about the law giving more restrictions on cell phone use to younger drivers than to older drivers. They argued that they believed younger people have faster reaction times than older folks, so it didn’t make sense to them to make a law based reaction times that was more restrictive to those with better reaction times.

Could you design an experiment that would test the hypothesis that reaction times are negatively correlated with age?

1 comment:

  1. You could use this and get the kids to convert their distances into times

    The Teaching Cipher