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Study: Hands free cellphones and distraction

In New York, and in several other states across the nation, drivers are prohibited from using hand-held cellphones while on the road. As a result, a number of motorists have started using hands-free cellphones while behind the wheel in order to stay in compliance and lower the risk of becoming involved in an accident. The problem lies in the fact that hands-free cellphones may not be as safe as some may think.

A study released by AAA discovered that hands-free cellphones are still distractive and may be a danger to those on the road. During the study, researchers measured the amount of cognitive distraction caused by hands-free cellphones in comparison to other distractive tasks, including listening to the radio, talking with another passenger in the car, talking using a hand-held and hands-free cellphone and compose an email using voice activated technology. Participants engaged in these activities while operating a simulator vehicle, as well as a regular vehicle equipped with monitoring devices.

Researchers accumulated data regarding eye movement, heart rate, brain activity and response time. They concluded that those who used the hands-free cellphone while driving were only slightly less distracted than they were when using a hand-held cellphone. In fact, the hands-free cellphone still acted a significant source of cognitive distraction. This stems from the fact that the human brain cannot engage in two complex tasks at the same time, but rather switches back and forth quickly from one activity to the other. There are moments in time where the brain is not focused on driving at all. Although these times are quick and sudden, they leave room for an accident to occur.

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