Study: Distraction and hands-free cellphones

A study shows that hands-free cellphones are a significant source of distraction to drivers and may cause a serious accident.

Talking, texting, taking selfies, composing emails and searching apps while driving are extremely dangerous practices that many people in West Virginia and across the nation engage in. In 2015, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that 391,000 people were injured and an additional 3,477 people were killed in distracted driving accidents. In an attempt to minimize these injuries and fatalities, a number of states have enacted legislation making it illegal to operate a hand-held cellphone while driving. As a result, some drivers have started using hands-free cellphones, which are advertised as a safe alternative to hand-held cellphones. Studies show, however, that hands-free cellphones are still a significant source of cognitive distraction, which can also be dangerous to drivers and everyone else on the road.

The hands-free study

The study focused on measuring the amount of distraction different activities created for drivers. Researchers had participants perform the following while driving: talk on a hand-held cellphone, maintain a conversation using a hands-free device, listen to the radio, listen to a book on tape, talk to a passenger in the vehicle, compose an email using a voice-activated device. Each participant drove both a simulator vehicle, as well as an actual vehicle equipped with monitoring devices. Researchers measured participants' heart rate, blood pressure, reaction time and brain activity while they engaged in these distractions.

Results are in

While listening to the radio was the least distracting activity, the most distractive task involved the voice-activated technology. Furthermore, the study showed that hands-free cellphones are only slightly less distracting than hand-held models. Hands-free cellphones were still a significant source of distraction to drivers and may increase a driver's likelihood to be involved in a serious car accident.

What is cognitive distraction?

Hands-free cellphones essentially eliminate two sources of distraction: manual distraction, which causes drivers to remove their hands from the steering wheel and visual distraction that requires drivers to take their eyes off the road. It does not take away the distraction that occurs when people are not fully focused on the road. Cognitive distraction occurs when people attempt to engage in two complex tasks at the same time, which according to the National Safety Council, is impossible. Rather than pay attention to both tasks, such as driving and talking to someone over a cellphone, the brain skips back and forth from one task to the other. This leaves moments where the brain is not concentrating on driving at all.

Get the help you need

If you have been involved in an accident caused by distracted driver in West Virginia, you may be eligible for compensation. Contact our attorneys right away regarding your legal options.