Distracted driving study: Measuring the safety of hands free devices

Studies show that while motorists may feel safer using a hands free device while driving, they are still distracting and could lead to an accident.

California is one of 14 states in the nation that prohibits drivers from talking or texting on hand-held cellphones while behind the wheel, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association. Many states adopted these laws in an attempt to lower the number of people who are killed and injured in distracted driving auto accidents every year. As a result, many drivers have started using hands free cellphones when they wish to engage in conversation, compose an email, text or search for a certain location. Studies have found, however, that hands free cellphones are not as safe as some people may think, and in some cases, using these devices while driving may lead to a serious automobile accident.

The study

During the study, which was published by AAA, participants were asked to drive a simulator, as well as an actual vehicle set up with various monitoring devices. Researchers measured participants' heart rate, brain activity and response time as they completed certain tasks while driving. These tasks included the following:

Participants were also asked to compose an email and/or text using voice-activated technology while driving.

The results

The results of the study showed that talking on a hands free cellphone while driving was significantly distracting. Although drivers did not have the manual and visual distractions that they had while using a hand-held cellphone, they still experienced a higher level of cognitive distraction. Composing an email using voice-activated technology was the most distracting task given to participants, while listening to the radio was the least distracting.

A look at cognitive distraction

According to the National Safety Council, cognitive distraction occurs when a motorist's focus is taken off of driving and placed on something else. Research reveals that when people are engaged in a conversation, they are unable to fully concentrate on another task. This is due to the brain's inability to multitask, or complete two complex tasks at the same time. Instead of focusing on both activities, the brain switches back and forth between one task and the other. When drivers are not fully focused on the road, they are less likely to respond to dangerous driving hazards, including objects in the road, bad weather conditions, traffic signals and pedestrians.

Getting help from an attorney

If you have been injured or have lost a loved one in an accident that was caused by a distracted driver, you may want to seek legal counsel from a personal injury attorney in California. You may find answers to your questions and learn more about your legal options.