You know that instance when you’re trying to concentrate on your driving activity and your phone rings, you pick up the phone and try to keep up driving normally. This is pretty easy for some drivers to do while it is harder that atomic physics for others. But based on unofficial statistics, from my visual observations, majority of drivers who happens to be in this scenario get distracted in most cases.
I believe this led to the introduction of hands-free calls for drivers whereby you as a driver, can receive calls with your two hands staying put on the steering rather than the conventional ‘one hand on the steering, the other on the phone’ mode of calling and driving.
One would think the hands-free calls would be much more less distracting than its other option. But here is a report by Queensland University of Technology (QUT), which suggests otherwise.
The study, performed by Dr. Shimul Haque of QUT, measured the reaction time of drivers that used the phone hands-free, drivers that actually held their device and ones that didn’t use a phone at all during driving. The tests were done in a simulator, presenting the same situation to all drivers.
“We took a group of drivers and exposed them to a virtual network which included a pedestrian entering the driver’s peripheral vision from a foothpath and walking across a pedestrian crossing. We then monitored the driver’s performance and reaction times during hands-free and hand-held phone conversations and without.”
“It turns out that both the people that used their phones hands-free, and the ones that held it up to their ear, have the same decrease in reaction time – approximately 40% slower than the drivers without a phone. “In real terms this equates to a delayed response distance of about 11 meters for a vehicle travelling at 40 km/h,” said Haque.
Dr. Haque went further to note that it’s the cognitive load required to hold a conversation that’s the real distraction, and not whether the driver is holding the phone or not. “In other words the human brain compensates for receiving increased information from a mobile phone by not sending some visual information to the working memory,” explained the scientist. This results in drivers that look at objects, without actually “seeing” them.
So there you have it, hands-free calls are just as distracting as any other calls all together. So I think the best options here is to not pock calls at all while driving. Safe trip wherever and whenever you do drive.
Readers corner: Do you answer calls while driving or you just ignore them all together? Let’s hear you..