Many people have adopted hands-free cell phone technology for use in their vehicles, believing it is safer than using hand-held cell phones. However, hands-free technology may not improve safety as much as people think. A study published by The American Automobile Association Foundation for Traffic Safety in June 2013 found that hands-free cell phone devices do not reduce the amount of driver distraction associated with sending text messages and making phone calls.
Hands-free devices no less distracting
Many automobile manufacturers have been including hands-free technology in their vehicles so that drivers can still use their phones while keeping both hands on the wheel and their eyes on the road. However, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety studied the brain waves of those using hands-free technology to send text messages and scroll through e-mails on voice-to-text programs and found that drivers are no less distracted when using hands-free devices than when using hand-held cell phones while driving.
The study looked at the brain activity and eye movements of 150 drivers while they did eight different tasks behind the wheel during a driving simulation, such as listening to an audio book, talking to passengers, listening to the radio, talking on a cell phone and listening to voice-activated emails. Using technology that translated speech into emails and text messages which allowed drivers to send, delete and scroll through messages required the greatest amount of a driver's attention of all the activities that researchers examined in the study. Researchers found that as the mental workload of a driver increased, the driver's reaction time slowed down and the driver was more likely to develop "tunnel vision," where the driver stopped scanning the road and rearview mirrors for potential hazards. Drivers even ended up missing things right in front of them, like stop signs and pedestrians.
Dangers of distracted driving
According to AAA, industry research indicates that about 9 million vehicles on the roads have "infotainment" systems, which allow drivers to use voice commands to control some of the vehicle functions, make phone calls and even update social media sites. Automakers predict that the number of infotainment-equipped vehicles will soar to 62 million by 2018. Safety experts view this as a public safety crisis waiting to happen.
Numerous studies have demonstrated how dangerous distracted driving is. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that in 2011, 3,331 people died in distraction-related auto accidents. Many believe that number of distracted driving fatalities is even higher because of inconsistencies across states in how they record auto fatality causes. Research from Carnegie Mellon shows that talking on a cell phone while driving reduces the amount of brain activity dedicated to driving by 37 percent.
The dangers of distracted driving do not decrease with hands-free technology, as the AAA study shows, even though many people believe it is safer. Those who think they are being efficient by multitasking while driving are in reality just putting others on the road at risk. If you have been injured by a distracted driver, talk to a seasoned car accident attorney who can help you recover for your losses.