Tom and Ray Magliozzi, the hosts of NPR's weekly radio show, Car Talk, cultivated a huge audience of listeners by making vehicle problems hilarious and fascinating -- even for those, like myself, who would never describe themselves as "car people."
Now, through a partnership with the University of Utah Applied Cognition Laboratory, the brothers are using their popularity to fight distracted driving. The Driver Distraction Center, recently launched on the Car Talk website, is full of information meant to raise awareness of the dangers of driving while distracted by technology.
"When you're trying to merge onto the highway between a moving tractor trailer and a FedEx truck, your brain is performing a complex mathematical calculation," Tom Magliozzi said in a news release. "I think most people know that they can't do that and have an intelligent conversation at the same time. And we have proof of this, because every one of us has had a near miss with a jerk holding a cell phone up to his ear."
In addition to features including tips for responsible driving, an "Are you a distracted driver?" quiz and links to state-by-state laws and other resources, the website's centerpiece is a blog by David Strayer, a cognitive researcher and psychology professor at the University of Utah. Some of Strayer's recent entries include a post on new technologies to understand brain functioning and a horrifying true story about the distractions of cell phones.
"Having studied driver distraction for the past decade, I was excited to collaborate with Tom and Ray to get people to think twice before multi-tasking behind the wheel," Strayer said. "My only stipulation was that I'd talk about the science behind driver distraction and leave the comedy to Tom and Ray and the rest of the Car Talk gang."
The Driver Distraction Center is sponsored by Allstate Insurance Company.
Photo: Tom and Ray Magliozzi / By Richard Howard