Driving while talking on a hands-free phone can be as distracting and dangerous as talking on a hand-held mobile, according the University of Sussex.
The study found that drivers having conversations sparking their visual imagination detected fewer road hazards than those who didn’t.
They also focused on a smaller area of the road ahead of them and failed to see hazards, even when they looked directly at them.
This shows that even hands-free phone conversations could cause road traffic accidents.
The researchers found that any type of conversations can use more of the brain’s visual processing resources than previously understood.
This then creates competition for the brain’s processing capacity, which results in drivers missing road hazards that they might otherwise have spotted.
Dr Graham Hole, Senior Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Sussex, says it’s a popular misconception that using a mobile phone while driving is safe as long as the driver uses a hands-free phone.
He says that if, for example, the person at the other end of the phone asks “where did you leave the blue file?” it could causing the driver to mentally search a remembered room.
The research is not meant to suggest drivers use hand-held devices instead – quite the opposite. Dr Hole says hand-held phone usage was made illegal because they interfere with vehicle control. He says the only ‘safe’ phone in a car is one that’s switched off.
Source: The University of Sussex
Date Published: June 27, 2016
Author: Jonathan Brown