Study measures the effect of hands-free cellphones on driving

Studies show that when drivers use hands-free cellphones, they experience a potentially dangerous level of cognitive distraction.

As a number of states continue to enact legislation banning the use of hand-held cellphones while driving, more people understand the dangers of distracted driving. In fact, distracted driving killed 3,179 people and injured an additional 431,000 people across the country in 2014, according to Distraction.gov. In order to curb the manual and visual distractions of hand-held cellular devices, many people have turned to using hands-free cellphones. These devices allow people to keep their eyes on the road and hands on the steering wheel while using their phones. Studies show, however, that even the act of engaging in conversation can cause cognitive distraction, which can be a significant hazard to drivers.

The study

A study published by AAA looked at the amount of cognitive distraction imposed on drivers who use hands-free cellphones. Researchers asked participants to engage in several activities while operating a simulator, as well as an actual vehicle equipped with monitoring devices. These tasks included the following:

· Listening to an audio book.

· Listening to the radio.

· Talking with a passenger in the vehicle.

· Maintaining conversation using a hand-held cellphone.

· Speaking with a person using a hands-free device.

· Creating an email through voice-activated technology.

During this time, researchers measured each participant's brain activity, response time and heart rate as an indicator of how much distraction occurred.

The results

Surprisingly, drivers who used hands-free cellphones experienced only slightly less distraction than those who used the hand-held cellular devices. Furthermore, the task that created the greatest amount of distraction involved the use of voice-activated technology. Listening to the radio caused the least amount of distraction.

Not only did the results show that hands-free cellphones were not much safer to use behind the wheel than hand-held devices, but that further studies should be done on the safety of voice-activated technology.

A closer look at cognitive distraction

According to the National Safety Council, the human brain is incapable of effectively performing two complex tasks at the same time. Rather than focus on both activities simultaneously, a person's concentration bounces back and forth from one thought to the other. When it comes to participating in a discussion over the phone and operating a vehicle, there are times when the brain is focused primarily on the conversation and not the road conditions. This makes it harder for people to respond to bad weather conditions, objects in the road, pedestrians, traffic signals and reckless drivers.

Distracted driving car accidents

People who have been involved in an auto accident caused by a distracted driver may wish to speak with a personal injury attorney regarding their rights to claim compensation. You may be left with serious injuries, extensive property damage and emotional trauma as a result of the accident. Keep in mind that you have options when it comes to dealing with the aftermath of a collision.