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Study shows hands-free cellphones a source of distraction

Although it is illegal to use a hand-held cellphone while driving in many states across the nation, Texas has yet to pass legislation prohibiting this act. Yet, the deaths caused by cellphone use and distracted driving cannot be overlooked. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 3,450 people were killed in distracted driving accidents in 2016. In an attempt to minimize these deadly accidents, some drivers have turned to using hands-free cellphones. Hands-free devices allow drivers to keep their hands on the steering wheel and their eyes on the road while talking on the cellphone. However, studies show that even maintaining a conversation using a hands-free cellphone can cause significant distraction and may lead to a catastrophic car accident.

In the study released by AAA, researchers measured the amount of cognitive distraction participants experienced as they were engaged in several tasks while driving. Drivers were asked to do the following while driving a simulator, as well as an actual vehicle with monitoring devices:

  • Listen to an audio book
  • Listen to the radio
  • Use a hand-held cellphone
  • Talk on a hands-free cellphone
  • Compose an email using a voice-activated device

The results showed that even while hands-free cellphones were less distracting than their hand-held counterparts, the variance was minimal. Hands-free cellphones still caused a significant amount of cognitive distraction. In some cases, the distraction was so severe that it could lead to an automobile accident. The human brain cannot concentrate on two complex activities simultaneously, which can leave lapses in a person’s ability to focus on driving.

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