Cognitive distractions: Study looks at hands free devices

Studies show that hands-free cellphones still cause a significant amount of cognitive distraction when compared to hand-held cellphones.

In Georgia and in several other states in the nation, it is illegal to talk or text on a hand-held cellphone while driving, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association. Many people have turned to using hands-free devices as a way to continue talking to people while staying in compliance with the law. Although hands-free cellphones are marketed as a safe alternative to using a hand-held device, studies show that hands-free devices are not be as safe as some may think. Hands-free cellphones have been found to cause a significant amount of cognitive distraction, which can place drivers and others on the road at risk of being involved in a catastrophic car accident.

The study

A study published by AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety looked at the amount of distraction caused by hands-free cellphones in comparison to other tasks motorists engage in while behind the wheel. During the study, researchers asked participants to drive a simulator vehicle, as well as an actual car equipped with monitoring devices. As motorists navigated the real or simulated roadways, they were asked to engage in several different tasks, including the following:

· Listening to the radio.

· Talking with a passenger in the vehicle.

· Maintaining a conversation using a hand-held and hands-free cellphone.

· Using a voice-activated device to compose an email.

As participants were completing the activities, researchers monitored their reaction times, eye movement and brain activity to measure cognitive distraction.

The results

Not surprisingly, listening to the radio caused the least amount of cognitive distraction. What was surprising is that talking on a hand-held cellphone caused only slightly more cognitive distraction than talking on a hands-free cellphone. Both seemed to distract the motorist and could potential lead to a hazardous outcome. Interestingly enough, the voice-activated device caused the greatest amount of cognitive distraction.

What is cognitive distraction?

According to the National Safety Council, the human brain cannot fully concentrate on two complex tasks simultaneously. Instead, the mind bounces back and forth between one task and the other. For example, while the driver is focused on maintaining a conversation with a friend over a hands-free device, he or she is not fully aware of what is going on around them. They may be less likely to stop at a pedestrian crosswalk, traffic stop, avoid bad weather conditions or avoid objects in the road.

When to call an attorney

When you have been involved in a car accident that occurred as a result of another person's negligence, you may want to seek counsel from a personal injury attorney in Georgia. A lawyer will listen to the details of your case and may help you explore all of your legal options.