Hands-free danger: study shows why even speakerphone usage impedes driving ability


Smartphones make it so easy to keep connected with the world around us that it can be difficult to give them up, even for a few moments – how many times have you snuck a peek at your phone in a movie theater, at the kitchen table, or even in a work meeting? Most of us know by now, though, that smartphones and driving just don't mix, and we're resigned to putting our phones down while behind the wheel – all in the name of safety. But even if we know better than to be touching and looking at our phones, isn't hands-free operation OK – keeping our hands on the wheel and eyes on the road? A new study adds to the voices saying “no,” and offers some new insight into just why even hands-free phone usage can be so distracting.

A study conducted by a team of psychologists at the University of Sussex in England investigates one reason why conducting hands-free calls on your phone while operating an automobile still manages to impair driver performance and slow down reaction times.

The group focused on the effect of how our brains process imagery, and the ability for a conversation to evoke such images.

For instance, you might be on the phone with your roommate when he asks what you did with last night's leftovers. As you try to remember where you put them, the imagery-processing part of your brain attempts to visualize your apartment – and in doing so, that takes away processing abilities that would otherwise be used to watch the road ahead of you.

On average, drivers engaged in such a conversation took a little less than a second longer to respond to on-road events than those who were driving distraction-free. And while that may not seem like much, an additional second can add an extra 100 feet to the distance it takes to stop when you're driving at 70 mph.

Maybe save the phone calls for when you've finally reached your destination?

source: University of Sussex via BBC

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8 Comments

1. macawmatt

Posts: 136; Member since: Feb 20, 2012

So, cars will start enclosing the driver in a bubble, cause what's the difference between your buddy on the phone asking you where you left the leftovers versus the person sitting next to you in the car asking the same thing? Still would rather have someone using a hands-free device then putting on makeup, shaving, or holding their dog in their lap while they are driving.

2. tedkord

Posts: 17356; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

Exactly. Laws are about collecting revenue, not about driver safety. Changing radio channels causes a ton of accidents, but nobody is talking about outlawing radios in cars. Mark my words, the day they figure out a way to tell you're talking hands free, they will outlaw it and attach fines to using it. And, don't get me wrong, texting or surfing while driving are absolutely dangerous. Talking is no more dangerous than talking to a passenger, or singing along with the radio.

4. engineer-1701d unregistered

what f**king car takes 100 foot stop in 1 sec difference, some one does not know how to do math or has ever driven a car newer then 1956. most cars stop for you now i still hate people on cell phones woman mostly yes on iphones mostly 90% of offenders are iphone users

3. phonearenarocks

Posts: 606; Member since: Mar 26, 2015

Disagree!!! When driving, if you are really focused, nothing can distract you.

5. engineer-1701d unregistered

you most not drive much or dont have a car

6. p51d007

Posts: 704; Member since: Nov 24, 2013

About a month ago, driving down a main 4 lane road, I received about 4 emails from work (service vehicle). Same person, same topic. Figuring they were urgent, I pulled off onto a side road, u-turned, parked off the road on the shoulder. Sat there with my head down answering the email, foot on the brake, in PARK. Couple minutes later, tap on the passenger window. Two county deputies wanted to know if I was ok. They drove past, saw my head down, thought I was a drunk driver, or had a medical condition. Told them I was just checking/responding to email because it isn't safe to do that and drive. They were SHOCKED I would do that, from the look on their faces. Both just got back in their patrol car and left.

7. Tronlol

Posts: 35; Member since: Feb 06, 2015

Good lad

8. macawmatt

Posts: 136; Member since: Feb 20, 2012

Safer roads everywhere if everyone would do what you did.

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