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Hands-free devices may not be as safe as first thought

It is fair to say that nearly everyone reading this blog has heard that it is not a good idea to hold one’s phone and either text or talk while operating a vehicle. Despite this, drivers still engage in this behavior on a regular basis, in Pittsburgh, and beyond. Sometimes when they do, the result is a car accident. In an effort to try to reduce the odds of this happening, many people have turned to hands-free devices so that they can talk on their mobile phone and complete other tasks while driving. In some states, it is the law.

As it turns out, the use of hands-free devices may not be as safe as first thought. This is according to a study that was recently commissioned by the American Automobile Association. The study, which was carried out by the University of Utah, monitored drivers who were asked to answer certain questions and perform tasks while taking part in a road test. In addition to driver reaction time, they also recorded brain activity and the head and eye movements of the drivers.

Drivers were asked to perform the following:

  • Solve math problems
  • Respond to voice-activated email
  • Listen to voice-activated email
  • Talk on hands-free phone
  • Talk on the phone while holding it
  • Listen to the radio

Despite its intention to make it safer to use a phone while operating a vehicle, the study found that using a hands-free device may actually be having the opposite effect. A psychology professor involved in the study indicated that using the feature could actually increase the chances of a car accident occurring because it served as such a great distraction.

It is likely that more studies regarding the matter will be conducted. Depending on those results it is possible that there could be a shift in how drivers are allowed to use their cellphones.

Source: NPR, “Hands-Free Gadgets Don't Mean Risk-Free Driving,” Howard Berkes, June 12, 2013

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