The fact that hands-free devices are currently legal can mislead people into thinking they are a safe alternative to hand-held devices, but this is not true: even having a hands-free conversation introduces a significant crash risk.
There is a substantial body of research that states that using a hand-held or hands-free mobile phone whilst driving is very distracting and leads to an increased accident risk. Despite this, the law banning mobile phones does not cover hands-free devices. RoSPA disagrees with this and calls for the banning of such devices at the wheel, as there is significant evidence that using these devices is just as dangerous.
A conversation is a demanding cognitive task regardless of whether it is being had through a hand-held or hands-free device. Lots of research has been conducted in the area of hands-free devices, and the results of such research tend to find that driving and having a conversation at the same time leads to competition for cognitive resources, which results in the driver experiencing increased reaction times and reduced accuracy, ultimately making them unsafe on the road. This could have severe or even fatal consequences, particularly for vulnerable road users such as children.
Much of the research in the area of hands-free devices utilises driving simulators, which generally involves monitoring the brain activity of a participant whilst having them “drive” for several miles – once normally, and once whilst having a conversation on a hands-free device. The results of several of these studies indicate that the brain activity required for driving is adversely affected by the hands-free conversation, resulting in increased braking times and an inability to identify hazards. The results also suggest that the reason for this is the fact that the part of the brain required for driving is the same part that is used to have a conversation – a scary thought.
It is clear that hands-free devices are unsafe and RoSPA recommends not using a mobile phone in any form at the wheel. Drivers should also note that they need to be in proper control of the vehicle - if this is not the case a charge of careless or dangerous driving could be the result.
Holly Moore, road safety support officer
Posted: 12/18/2019 9:38:13 AM