In an attempt to minimize deadly car accidents, injuries and deaths, the Indiana legislature made it illegal to use a hand-held cellphone while driving. Many people use hands-free devices to stay in compliance with the law and minimize distractions.
However, studies show that hands-free cellphones are a distraction and may still lead to serious car accidents.
What did the study involve?
AAA reports that researchers measured the cognitive distraction levels drivers experienced when they engaged in several different activities. As participants performed the tasks, researchers monitored their heart rate, eye movement, brain activity and response time. These tasks included the following:
- Listening to the radio
- Listening to an audiobook
- Maintaining a conversation with a passenger in the car
- Talking with someone using a hand-held cellphone
- Talking with someone using a hands-free cellphone
- Composing an email using voice-activated technology
The results showed that when drivers use a hands-free cellphone while driving, they may experience a significant amount of cognitive distraction. This distraction could be enough to cause a serious collision.
What is cognitive distraction?
Cognitive distraction requires drivers to take their concentration off the road and focus it on something else. According to the National Safety Council, the human brain is not capable of effectively focusing on more than one complex task at the same time. While people may think they are able to concentrate on both activities, their brains are actually switching back and forth quickly from one task to the other. This means that there are moments in time where they are not concentrating on the road all, leaving time for an accident to occur.
Drivers who avoid phone conversations while they are driving are less likely to cause a deadly accident.