Exploring the safety of hands-free devices

Although hands-free cellphones are marketed as a safe alternative to hand-hand devices, they are still dangerous for drivers.

The distracted driving death rate continues to climb in Oklahoma and throughout the United States. In 2015, 391,000 people were injured and 3,477 people were killed in accidents involving distracted driving, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. While many states have taken action to stop this surprising statistic by prohibiting people from using hand-held cellphones to talk and text while driving, people continue to engage in this deadly activity. Hands-free cellphones, which are marketed to drivers as a safe alternative to using a hand-held cellphone while behind the wheel, are used by many people who wish to limit their amount of distraction. However, studies show that even hands-free devices present a considerable amount of cognitive distraction and should be avoided by drivers.

Evaluating distraction

In a study published by AAA, researchers evaluated the amount of distraction drivers experience when they engage in certain activities. Participants were asked to operate a simulator vehicle, as well as an actual motor vehicle equipped with specialized monitoring devices. They were then asked to drive through a course while performing several distractive activities. These included the following:

· Composing emails using a voice-activated device.

· Listening to the radio.

· Talking on a hands-free cellphone.

· Talking to a passenger in the vehicle.

· Maintaining a conversation using a hand-held device.

· Listening to a book-on-tape.

As participants completed these tasks, monitors measured their brain activity, eye movement, response time and heart rate to determine how much cognitive distraction they experienced.

And the winner goes to

Researchers found that the most distracting activity involved drivers using the voice-activated technology to compose emails and texts, which prompted further studies. Interestingly enough, talking on a hands-free cellphone was only slightly less distracting than using a hand-held cellphone, even though hand-held devices require drivers to take their hands off the steering wheel and eyes off the road. Hands-free cellphones were still a significant form of cognitive distraction.

How is cognitive distraction dangerous?

When drivers take their focus off the road and place it somewhere else, it is referred to as cognitive distraction. According to the National Safety Council, the brain is unable to complete two tasks simultaneously. Rather than focus on both tasks at once, it bounces back and forth between the activities. This leaves brief moments where the brain is not focused on the road at all. During these times, people are unable to respond to driving hazards, such as pedestrians in road, traffic signals, crosswalks and other drivers.

Getting help when you need it

If you have been involved in an accident caused by a drunk driver, you may want to seek legal counsel from an experienced personal injury attorney in Oklahoma. You may be entitled to compensation for your medical expenses, property damage, lost wages from work and emotional trauma.