When talking about cell phones as one of the leading causes of distracted driving, the use of hands-free devices is also beginning to be considered. Many people may think that using hands-free devices makes them responsible and safe drivers. However, that is not necessarily true. Although the use of these devices allows the driver to keep their hands on the wheel and their eyes on the road, several studies have shown that it’s the conversation itself that causes the distraction. Therefore, the danger lies in focusing on the conversation, not just the handling of the cellular device.
Talking on the phone represents a cognitive distraction, preventing drivers from seeing some dangers directly in front of them and causing them to focus only on a small part of the road. This data is backed by a study conducted by the Department of Psychology at the University of Sussex, England.
When a driver has a conversation with passengers in the same car, both people can be aware of what is happening on the road. As a result, the passengers can moderate their voice and their conversation accordingly, in addition to using non-verbal signals that mark identification of possible risks. All these reasons make conversations between drivers and passengers less cognitively demanding.
In contrast, when a person talks on their cell phone, the person on the other end of the phone has no idea what is going on. Therefore, this person cannot help identify hazards or recognize when it’s necessary to stop the conversation due to traffic or road conditions. So far, no state in the country has banned the use of hands-free devices in cars, nor other voice-activated technologies such as Alexa and Siri virtual assistants.
While driving, it’s recommended to avoid using your cell phone and not be distracted by voice controls. Remember that everything can wait until you reach your destination. And if not, it is best to stop your car and attend to the situation at hand before getting back on the road.