In New York and in many other states across the nation, it is illegal to use a hand-held cell phone while driving. This legislation was put in place after the constant use of cellphones by drivers was linked to thousands of deadly car accidents throughout the country. As a result of the ban on hand-held cell phones, many drivers started using hands-free cell phones as a way to stay in compliance with the law and continue their business. Yet, studies show that even hands-free devices can be distracting and lead to catastrophic accidents as well.
A study published in AAA reported how hands-free cellphones are a significant source of cognitive distraction. Researchers looked at participants cognitive functioning while driving and completing certain distractive tasks, including the following:
- Listening to the radio
- Listening to an audio book
- Maintaining a conversation with a passenger in the vehicle
- Using a hands-free cell phone
- Using a hand-held cellphone
- Creating an email using voice-activated technology
While participants were engaged in the tasks, researchers measured their eye movement, response time, heart rate and brain activity. They found that using the hands-free cell phone was only slightly less distracting than using a hand-held cell phone. Furthermore, using the hands-free cell phone still presented a significant risk to drivers.
Hands-free cell phones create cognitive distraction, which occurs when the driver is not focused on the road, but on something else altogether. While the driver is talking on the phone, he or she is unable to respond to certain hazards, including objects the road, pedestrian crosswalks, traffic signals and bad weather conditions. It is best to avoid using all cellular and voice-activated devices while driving.