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Study: Hands-free Devices Still Distract Drivers

Posted on 18 Jun 2013 by Neilson

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Distracted drivingWe know texting and driving is dangerous. Many of us have seen texting drivers swerving and driving dangerously. Most of us have seen the eerily quiet "don't text and drive" ads featuring loved ones of crash victims imploring us that it can wait.

Hands-free devices can seem like a safer alternative to stay connected on the road, but a study from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety showed that hands-free technology can still be dangerously distracting.

A research team from the University of Utah found, not surprisingly, that as mental workload and distractions increase, reaction time slows. Drivers miss visual cues and might ignore things right in front of them such as stop signs or pedestrians.

"This landmark study is eye-opening. Taking your mind off the road while driving can be just as dangerous as taking your eyes off the road," AAA-Mid-Atlantic spokeswoman Ragina Averella said in a statement.

The study used cameras and a device to measure brain activity to check the reaction time of drivers involved in tasks such as listening to the radio, talking on a hands-free and hand-held cell phone, and using voice-activated email features.

Listening to the radio posed a minimal risk. Talking on a cellphone, even with hands-free devices, posed a moderate risk, and listening and responding to voice-activated email posed an extensive risk, the research showed.

AAA recommended limiting voice-activated technology to core driving functions such as climate control, cruise control or adjusting windshield wipers.

It also recommend disabling nonessential functions such as email and social media access so they cannot be used while the car is in motion.