Now that cellphone bans while driving have spread across the country, carmakers and cell phone providers are cashing in on hands-free technology.
But a growing body of research says that talking “hands-free” is not solving the problem of distracted driving on our roads.
“It’s not that your hands aren’t on the wheel, it’s that your mind is not on the road,” says David Strayer, a leading researcher from the University of Utah’s Applied Cognition Laboratory.
In a recent Canadian study, researchers from the University of Alberta found that talking on a hands-free device increases the quantity and severity of driver error.
Twenty-six participants were put in two simulated driving scenarios. They were first put in a controlled scenario and asked to focus solely on driving for 4 minutes. In the second scenario, participants were asked to drive while talking on a hands-free device for 2 minutes.
When talking on a hands-free device, drivers started crossing centre lines, running stop signs, and getting into accidents.
Researchers discovered that there was a significant increase in brain activity while talking on a hands-free device. Blood flow to the brain “is significantly increased during hands-free telecommunication in order to meet the oxygen demands of the neurons under the ‘distracted’ condition,” notes lead researcher Professor Bhambhani.
Avoid spiking your heart rate and blood flow to the brain. Keep your mind on the road and not on your hands-free device.
For more information:
- Roads no safer with hands-free devices, study finds, The Globe and Mail
- Driving and hands-free talking lead to spike in errors, University of Alberta
- A Problem of the Brain, Not the Hands: Group Urges Phone Ban for Drivers, The New York Times