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Hands-free devices and cognitive distraction

On Behalf of | Jan 7, 2019 | Car Accidents |

Although many studies have proved that using a cellphone while driving causes major accidents, injuries and death, people continue to engage in this deadly practice. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 481,000 drivers use their cellphones during daylight hours. In 2016, 3,450 people were killed in distracted driving accidents. Many states have banned the use of hand-held cellphones as a way to decrease the number of tragic accidents that occur each year. However, studies show that hands-free cellphones may not be a safe option for drivers.

In a study conducted by AAA, researchers asked participants to engage in several distractive activities while operating a simulator vehicle, as well as an actual car equipped with monitors. Researchers measures the participants brain activity, eye movement, heart rate and response time while they completed the following tasks:

  •          Talking on a hand-held cellphone
  •          Talking on a hands-free cellphone
  •          Composed an email using voice activated technology
  •          Maintained a conversation with a passenger in the car
  •          Listened to an audio book
  •          Listened to the radio

The results showed that talking on a hands-free cellphone was not much less distracting than using a hand-held cellphone. The hands-free cellphone decreases visual and manual distractions, but it still is a significant source of cognitive distraction. This occurs when the brain is not completely focused on the road, but something else. Rather than concentrate on driving, the brain skips back and forth between two complex tasks. This leaves moments in time when the brain is not focused on the road at all.