Study: Measuring the safety of hands-free cellphones

A study found that hands-free cellphones are still a significant cause of cognitive distraction to drivers.

Despite a law that prohibits drivers from talking on hand-held cellphones while behind the wheel, thousands of motorists continue to engage in this deadly behavior. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 3,477 people were killed and another 391,000 people were injured by distracted driving in 2015 alone. In an attempt to minimize the number of people who are injured and killed by distracted drivers every year, many states outlawed hand-held devices. Hands-free cellphones, however, are still considered legal. Studies have been conducted to evaluate whether using a hands-free cellphone is any safer than operating a hand-held cellphone while driving.

The study

A study published by AAA, set out to evaluate the distractions motorists face while driving. Participants involved in the study were asked to perform multiple tasks while operating a simulator vehicle, as well as car equipped with monitoring devices. The tasks included the following:

· Listening to an audio book.

· Maintaining a conversation using a hand-held cellphone.

· Talking on a hands-free cellphone.

· Holding a conversation with a passenger in the vehicle.

· Listening to the radio.

· Using voice-activated technology to compose and send an email.

As people engaged in the activities, their heart rate, brain activity, response time and driving accuracy were measured.

The results

Each task was given a distraction rating, based on the effect that it had on the driver. Not surprisingly, listening to the radio was the least distractive. The results showed, however, that using a hands-free cellphone was only slightly less distracting than using a hand-held model. Furthermore, the most distracting task involved operating the voice-activated technology. Although hands-free cellphones do not involve manual or visual distractions, as they do not require drivers to use their eyes or hands, they are a significant cause of cognitive distraction.

Cognitive distraction

According to the National Safety Council, the human brain cannot effectively engage in two complex tasks simultaneously. Instead, the focus will skip back and forth from one task to the other. When people are maintaining a conversation while driving, there are times that they are not concentrating on driving at all. People have been seen running red lights, avoiding stop signs and committing other traffic offenses while using a hands-free cellphone.

Putting your life back together

If you have been victimized by a distracted or otherwise negligent driver, you may suffer from physical injuries, property damage and emotional trauma. Reckless drivers should be held responsible for their actions. An attorney in Illinois may be helpful in getting your life back on track following a personal injury.