Study: Hands-free Devices Not As Safe As Once Believed

Studies show that hands-free cellphones create a significant amount of cognitive distraction to drivers, and may not be safe to use.

There is no question that talking and texting on a hand-held mobile device while driving is extremely dangerous. In fact, distracted driving has led to thousands of car accidents, injuries and deaths. As a result, many states, including West Virginia, have banned hand-held cellphone use while driving. In order to stay in compliance with the law, a number of motorists have started using hands-free devices while behind the wheel. Yet studies show that even hands-free cellphones can create a significant amount of cognitive distraction, which can also lead to car accidents and fatalities.


Cognitive distraction study

A study published by AAA looked at the dangers of hands-free cellphone use, and how the cognitive distraction caused by these devices compare to other distractions people face while driving. During the study, participants were asked to engage in several activities while operating a vehicle equipped with monitors, as well as a simulator vehicle. The monitors evaluated participants’ heart rate, brain activity, eye movement, response time and other factors to determine the amount of mental workload drivers’ experienced while participating in the tasks.

The tasks included the following:

  • Listening to the radio.
  • Listening to an audio book.
  • Talking with a passenger in the vehicle.
  • Maintaining a conversation using a hand-held device.
  • Composing an email using voice-activated technology.

In addition to these activities, drivers were asked to engage in a conversation using a hands-free cellphone.

A look at the results

Researchers found that while using a hands-free cellphone was slightly less distracting than operating a hand-held device, there was minimal difference between the two. Listening to the radio caused the least amount of cognitive distraction, and using the voice-activated technology was the most distracting. The results also motivated researchers to perform further studies on voice-activated devices.

What is cognitive distraction?

According to the National Safety Council, cognitive distraction occurs when the brain is forced to focus on something other than the primary task. For example, when the brain is engaged in two complex activities, such as talking on a hands-free cellphone and driving, it is unable to concentrate on both tasks simultaneously. Instead, it switches quickly back and forth between tasks. This leaves moments in time where the motorist is not focused on driving at all.

Surviving a distracted driving car accident

When you have been hit by a distracted driver, you may be unsure of what to do next. You may experience serious injuries, property damage and emotional trauma because of the collision. An attorney in West Virginia who knows how to handle personal injury cases may be able to look at the details of your case and explore your potential legal options.

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