There is no question that using a cellphone while driving in North Carolina is dangerous. In fact, approximately 2,841 people were killed and an additional 400,000 people were injured in accidents involving a distracted driver in 2018, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
As a way to limit the distractions of hand-held cellphones, some have turned to using hands-free devices. Yet, studies show that even while hands-free devices limit manual distractions, they still pose a serious danger to everyone on the road.
Hands free device study
In a study released by AAA, researchers measured cognitive distraction by asking participants to engage in several tasks while driving a vehicle equipped with monitoring devices and a simulator. These included:
- Listening to the radio
- Listening to an audio book
- Talking with another passenger in the car
- Using a hands-free cellphone
- Using a hand-held cellphone
- Composing and sending an email using voice-activated technology
During the tasks, researchers measured participants’ brain activity, eye movement, response time and heart rate as a way to measure cognitive distraction while driving. The findings revealed that talking on a hands-free cellphone yielded a significant amount of cognitive distraction, only slightly less than that of using a hand-held cellphone.
Cognitive distraction occurs when the mind is focused on something other than the task at hand. According to the National Safety Council, the brain cannot completely focus on two complex tasks at the same time such as driving and talking on a cellphone. Instead, it switches from one task to the other. This leaves instances where the brain is not concentrating on the road at all, giving time for a serious accident to occur.