Hands -Free is Not Distraction Free!

Using Hands-Free Technology Does Not Mean Distraction Free

A new study that has just been published suggests that driving and using a hands-free phone can be just as distractingas talking on a hand-held phone. The University of Sussex conducted the study, comparing drivers using hands-free devices and those without distractions, measuring what hazards they saw while on the road.

The study revealed that conversations that require visual imagination create competition for the brain’s processing capability. The brain must then choose between imagining the conversation and processing the roadway.

As an example, if you are using a hands-free device and you are in a conversation where someone on the phone asks you where your blue jacket is, as a driver you need to visualize where you may have put your jacket. In principal, the study found that drivers who are on a hands-free device focus on the road in a much smaller scope and may look at a hazard but fail to recognize it.

Distracted Driving is Put to the Test

Two experiments made up the study. The first experiment had the participants either undistracted or distracted by listening to statements and deciding if they are true or false. Some of these declarations required the participants to think visually. An example is a five-pound note the same size as a ten-pound note. The distracted participants in the study showed that they were slower to respond to hazards that they saw and missed more hazards than the undistracted study subjects.

The second experiment involved some of the study subjects following verbal instructions versus participants who did not. The study found the distracted participants were more likely to miss a hazard as they were visually tunnelling, focussing on a small part of the road while processing the verbal instructions provided.

The study reinforces what Young Drivers of Canada continues to teach its students; multitasking is a myth. The brain has only a certain amount of power to process what is going on. Driving takes all of that processing power. If a driver attempts to multi-task while driving, one of the tasks will suffer as the brain takes all the power to process only one of the tasks. To read the complete findings of the University of Sussex’s study, visit http://www.sussex.ac.uk/broadcast/read/35831