It is well known that using a cellphone while driving is a dangerous feat. In 2018, distracted driving took the lives of 2,841 and injured 400,000 people, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
In an attempt to reduce the dangers of distracted driving, you may have turned to using hands-free devices. Although hands-free cellphones enable you to keep your hands on the steering wheel and eyes on the road, they may not be as safe as you may think.
A study released by AAA found that hands-free cellphones act as a significant distraction to motorists. In the study, researchers asked participants to engage in several tasks while driving a vehicle set up with monitoring equipment, as well as a simulator. These activities included the following:
- Listening to the radio
- Listening to an audio book
- Talking with a passenger in the vehicle
- Talking using a hand-held cellphone
- Talking using a hands-free cellphone
- Using voice-activated technology to compose an email
During this time, researchers measured participants’ eye movement, response time, brain activity and heart rate to determine the amount of cognitive distraction they experienced. The results found that the difference in the amount of distraction produced by the hands-free and hand-held cellphones was minimal.
Cognitive distraction occurs when the brain attempts to focus on two complex tasks simultaneously. While you may think you are able to concentrate on two activities, such as driving and maintaining a conversation with another person, your focus is actually bouncing back and forth between one task and the other. This leaves a period where your brain is not focused on driving at all. If a hazard occurs during this time, such as an object in the road, bad weather conditions or another driver, you may be unable to stop and react in time to avoid a catastrophic collision.