STUDY: HANDS FREE DEVICES NOT AS SAFE AS SOME MAY THINK

Although many drivers use hands-free devices to stay safe behind the wheel, studies show they may not be as safe as some people may think.

Although Tennessee drivers are able to talk on a hand-held cellphone without any legal repercussions, some motorists have turned to using hands-free devices as a way to stay safe behind the wheel. Since hands-free devices remove the manual and visual distractions that hand-held cell phones pose, many people believe that hands-free devices are a safe alternative to using hand-held cellphones. However, studies show that even hands-free devices can be a serious form of cognitive distraction, which can threaten lives on the road.

A look at the study

Researchers asked a group of participants to perform a series of tasks while they were behind the wheel of a simulator, as well as an actual vehicle equipped with monitoring devices. People were asked to listen to the radio, talk on a hand-held cellphone, maintain a conversation on a hands-free cell phone, listen to an audio book, compose an email using a voice-activated device and talk with a passenger in the vehicle. During the tasks, monitors were used to evaluate the each driver's reaction time, mental workload and brain activity, which indicated their level of distraction.

The results

The results of the study showed that while composing an email using a voice-activated device was found to be the most distracting task, speaking on a hands-free cell phone showed a moderate increase of cognitive distraction. Listening to a book on tape or the radio were the least distracting of the tasks. Not only did the study show the dangers of talking on a hand-held or hands-free device while driving, but it showed that flaws in voice-activated technology led to serious driver distractions.

How cognitive distraction affects drivers

The National Safety Council evaluated several studies focused on cognitive distraction and found that the human brain is not able to effectively multi-task. Rather than concentrate on two complex activities at once, such as maintaining a conversation using a hands-free device and driving, the brain switches back and forth from one task to the other. During this process, there are moments in time where the brain is not fully focused on the road and the potential hazards that the driver may encounter. As a result, drivers' reaction time can be greatly compromised.

Obtaining counsel from an attorney

People who have been in an auto accident involving a distracted driver may face a host of difficult issues, such as mounting medical bills, emotional trauma and lost wages from taking time off of work. You may want to speak to a lawyer in Tennessee regarding your legal options and rights, as you may be entitled to compensation in your case.

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