Using Hands-Free Device While Driving May Be a Road Safety Hazard, Claims New Study


NDTV - CarandBike Team (With Inputs from PTI)

Technology has become such an inherent part of cars that we often tend to discount the dangers it may pose. Case in point, talking on hands-free devices while driving. A new study claims that it may be as distracting as using a hand-held phone. One of the researchers pointed out that it is a widely accepted belief that using a mobile phone while driving is safe as long as the driver uses a hands-free phone and that research shows it is not the case.

Story Highlights
  •     Conversation may create competition for the brain's processing capacity
  •     It can cause drivers to miss road hazards
  •     Study claims that distracted drivers suffered from 'visual tunnelling'

Researchers found that a conversation which requires the driver to use their visual imagination creates competition for the brain's processing capacity, consequently leading the drivers to miss road hazards. Graham Hole from University of Sussex, said, "Hands-free can be equally distracting because conversations cause the driver to visually imagine what they are talking about. This visual imagery competes for processing resources with what the driver sees in front of them on the road."
These findings are significant for real-life mobile phone conversations; certain questions posed to the driver, like 'where did you leave the blue file?', can lead them to visualise. Furthermore, the driver may also simply imagine the facial expression of the person they are talking to.

The study also found that drivers who were distracted suffered from 'visual tunnelling'. They tended to focus their eyes on a small central region directly ahead of them. This led them to miss hazards in their peripheral vision. Undistracted participants' eye movements ranged over a much wider area, researchers said.

"Conversations are more visual than we might expect, leading drivers to ignore parts of the outside world in favour of their inner 'visual world' - with concerning implications for road safety," said Hole.
He further added, "The use of hand-held phones was made illegal primarily because they interfere with vehicle control; but our study adds to a mounting body of research showing that both hand-held and hands-free phones are dangerously distracting for drivers."

The findings were published in the journal Transportation Research.

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)