Study: Hands free cellphones and the risk of a deadly car accident

Studies show that hands-free cellphones are not much safer then hand-held cellphones when it comes to cognitive distraction.

Many drivers in Forest Hills and across the state know that driving while operating a hand-held cellphone is against the law. Distracted driving auto accidents injured 431,000 people and caused 3,179 fatalities in 2014 alone. As a way to stay in compliance with the law and still conduct business using a cellphone while driving, a number of motorists have started using hands free cellular devices. These machines allow people to keep both hands on the steering wheel and eyes on the road as they dial phone numbers, carry out a conversation, compose an email and review text messages. Studies show, however, that even hands free cellphones pose a serious threat to people on the road.

The study

A study published by the AAA Foundation focused on gaining a more thorough understanding of how hands-free cellphones influence drivers and their ability to concentrate on the road. During the study, researchers had participants perform a number of tasks while operating a driving simulator as well as an actual vehicle equipped with monitoring devices. These tasks included the following:

  • Listening to the radio
  • Maintaining a conversation with a passenger in the vehicle
  • Speaking with someone on a hand-held cellphone
  • Following an audio book
  • Using an in-car voice activated device to compose an email

In addition to these tasks, drivers were asked to carry on a conversation while using a hands-free device. As people were engaged in these activities, researchers monitored their heart rate, blood pressure and brain functioning. They also looked at drivers' response time and visual accuracy.

The results

The results showed that although hands-free devices are less distracting than hand-held cellphones, they are still a significant form of distraction. Listening to the radio caused the least amount of cognitive distraction, while using the voice-activated device to compose an email acted as the most distracting. The amount of cognitive distraction caused by hands-free cellphones could be enough to lead to a serious car accident.

Cognitive distraction

Cognitive distraction occurs when a person's focus is taken off of the primary task at hand. For instance, when motorists are engaged in a conversation, their concentration skips between driving and what the other person in saying. If that driver should be presented with a hazard, such as an object in the road, traffic signal, pedestrian crossing or bad weather conditions, he or she may not be able to respond in a timely manner.

Picking up the pieces

When people are involved in a tragic car accident caused by a distracted or otherwise negligent driver, they may be left with injuries, medical expenses and emotional trauma. A personal injury attorney in New York may be helpful to those who are dealing with these types of situations.