Cognitive distraction and hands-free cell phone use

On Behalf of | Oct 18, 2019 | Motor Vehicle Accidents |

In Georgia and in many other states across the nation, it is illegal for drivers to use hand-held cell phones. The dangers of doing so have been widely researched, and many studies show how distracted driving can lead to deadly car accidents. For many drivers, this law does not mean they are not able to use their cellphones while behind the wheel. A number of motorists use hands-free cellphones as a way to continue conducting their business while staying in compliance with the law. These devices that are marketed as safe alternatives to hand-held cell phones are not the same as some people may think.

Research released from AAA found that even hands free cell phones cause a significant amount of cognitive distraction. This occurs when drivers are not totally focused on the road but instead are trying to perform two complex activities at once. The brain, however, cannot concentrate on both tasks, and ends up switching back and forth between one task and the other. This leaves moments in time where the brain is not focused on the road at all.

During the study, researchers measured the amount of cognitive distraction drivers experienced while completing certain tasks, including the following:

  • Listening to an audio book
  • Listening to the radio
  • Maintaining a conversation using a hand-held and hands-free cell phone
  • Creating an email using voice activated technology
  • Talking with a passenger in the vehicle

After measuring drivers’ eye movement, response time and brain activity, the researchers found that using a hands-free cell phone was only slightly less distracting than using a hand-held cellphone. Either distraction could potentially lead to a disastrous car accident.