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Distraction study questions the safety of hands free cellphones

While it is against the law to text and drive in Tennessee, drivers are able to talk on hand-held cellphones with no legal repercussions. Many people, however, know that doing so is dangerous, and some people have turned to using hands free cellphones as a result. A study published by AAA found, however, that even hands free cellphones can pose a serious distraction to drivers and may increase the risk of a catastrophic car accident.

Participants in the study were asked to engage in several activities while using lab equipment, driving a simulator, as well as operating a vehicle equipped with monitoring instruments. These tasks included the following:

  •          Listening to the radio
  •          Talking with a passenger
  •          Talking on a hand-held cellphone
  •          Listening to an audiobook
  •          Talking on a hands-free cellphone
  •          Using a voice activated device

Researchers measured drivers’ following distance, brake reaction time, brainwave activity and eye and head movements while they were involved in the tasks.

Study results indicated that the distractive tasks affected drivers’ response time to road hazards and decreased motorists’ ability to see everything in their driving environment. While engaged in the various tasks, drivers’ showed decreased brain activity. This means that while people are engaged in other tasks that compete for their concentration, they are not able to fully focus on driving safely.

Similar cognitive distraction studies evaluated by the National Safety Council, show that even when drivers’ hands are on the steering wheel and eyes are on the road, they are still cognitively distracted and may be in danger of causing a motor vehicle accident. Anything that deters a motorist’s attention away from the task of driving can be dangerous to everyone on the road.  



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