Study: Hands free cellphones pose danger to drivers

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Studies show that hands free cellphones are not a safe alternative to hand-held cellular devices for people who are driving.

New York has some of the strictest cellphone laws in the country. All drivers in the state are prohibited from talking or texting on hand-held cellphones while behind the wheel. Hands free and voice-activated devices are completely legal to use while driving, and are marketed as a safe alternative to hand-held cellphones. Studies show, however, that even hands free technology acts as a significant distraction to drivers and poses a danger to everyone on the road.

The study

A study published by AAA compared hands free technology to other forms of driver distractions, including talking on a hand-held cellphone, carrying on a conversation with other passengers in the car, changing the radio station, listening to a book on tape and even composing an email using voice activated technology. Participants were asked to drive in both a simulator and a vehicle that was equipped with monitoring devices. As the drivers performed the various activities, researchers monitored their reaction time, mental workload and brain activity. Physiological responses, such as heart rate and blood pressure, were also measured.

The results

Researchers found that while listening to the radio and audio book created the least amount of cognitive distraction, talking on a hands free cellphone caused a significant increase in cognitive distraction. Using voice-activated technology to compose an email resulted in the largest rise in distraction. The study shows that while many people turn to using hands free cellphone in order to stay in compliance with the law, it is best to refrain from using any type of cellular device while behind the wheel.

A closer look at cognitive distraction

What is cognitive distraction and how does it affect a person's ability to drive? When motorists engage in tasks that take their concentration off of the road, they are considered cognitively distracted. This lack of focus can reduce a driver's reaction time to certain hazards, such as pedestrian crossings, traffic signals, other vehicles, objects in the road and bad weather conditions. According to the National Safety Council, the human brain cannot effectively complete two complex tasks at once. Instead, the brain travels back and forth from one task to the other, leaving moments in time where the distracted motorist is not thinking about driving at all. Distracted drivers put their lives and the lives of everyone else in danger.

Getting legal assistance

People who have been involved in a serious auto accident caused by a distracted or otherwise negligent driver may want to speak to a personal injury attorney regarding their legal options. You may be entitled to compensation for your injuries, property damage, emotional trauma and lost wages from work.