Drivers in Connecticut, and in many other states across the nation, are prohibited from using a hand-held cellphone while behind the wheel. These laws were put in place in an attempt to minimize the number of people who are seriously injured and killed in distracted driving car accidents each year in the U.S. Hands-free cellphones, however, are not prohibited and drivers can legally use these devices as they navigate around city streets. The problem lies in the fact that even hands-free cellphones may not be safe for drivers to use, as they cause a significant amount of cognitive distraction.
Cognitive distraction occurs when motorists are focused on something other than driving. According to the National Safety Council, the brain cannot focus on two tasks at the same time. It jumps back and forth between tasks, and this leaves moments where the driver is not concentrating on driving at all. This may cause drivers to run red lights, disobey traffic signs, neglect pedestrian crosswalks and fail to notice objects in the road.
AAA released a study that looked at driver distractions, specifically hands-free cellphones, and measure how much cognitive distraction they cause. Participants were asked to complete the following distractive tasks:
Talk on a hand-held and hands-free cellphone
Speak to a passenger in the vehicle
Compose a message using voice-activated technology
Listen to an audio book and the radio
After measuring participants’ heart rate, brain activity, response time and eye movement, researchers found that using a hand-held cellphone while driving was only slightly more distracting than using a hands-free device.