Hands-Free Driving Danger
In spite of the purported advantages of using hands-free phones while driving, it turns out that we’re just as likely to be distracted while talking with both hands on the wheel as when we actually hold the phone. A new study from Australia’s Queensland University of Technology (QUT) found that driver reaction time while on the phone is about 40 percent slower compared to drivers who aren’t on the phone. The researchers tested a group of drivers on a virtual road network that included a pedestrian entering the driver’s peripheral vision from the sidewalk and beginning to cross the road. Study leader Shimul Haque suggested that “the increased brain power required to hold a phone conversation can alter a driver’s visual scanning pattern” so that when receiving information on the phone, the brain may not pass along some visual information. The consequence is that drivers distracted by their conversation may “look at but not see” what is approaching them. In 2013 an American Automobile Association study came to a similar conclusion: the more distracted drivers are by infotainment, the more reaction time slows, compromising brain function so that we miss visual cues that could alert us to stop signs, road hazards, and pedestrians.
Shimul Haque et al, “Hands-free just as distracting as handheld mobile phone use behind the wheel.” Paper presented at Queensland University of Technology Driving Distraction Seminar, November 2016.
David L. Strayer et al, “Measuring Cognitive Distractions in the Automobile.” AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, June 2013
Also from this week’s bulletin: