Saturday, January 07, 2017

Hands-free just as distracting as handheld mobile phone use behind the wheel

Public Release: 12-Dec-2016
Hands-free just as distracting as handheld mobile phone use behind the wheel
Queensland University of Technology

Talking hands-free on a mobile phone while driving is just as distracting as a conversation using a hand-held phone, despite one being illegal and the other not, a QUT road safety study has found.


"The reaction time of drivers participating in either a hand-held or hands-free conversation was more than 40 per cent longer than those not using a phone.

"In real terms this equates to a delayed response distance of about 11m for a vehicle travelling at 40km/h.

"This shows hands-free and hand-held phone conversations while driving have similar detrimental effects in responding to a very common peripheral event of a pedestrian entering a crossing from the footpath."

Dr Haque said it was the cognitive load required to hold a conversation that was the distraction, not whether or not the driver was holding a phone.

"It appears that the increased brain power required to hold a phone conversation can alter a drivers' visual scanning pattern.

"In other words the human brain compensates for receiving increased information from a mobile phone conversation by not sending some visual information to the working memory, leading to a tendency to 'look at' but not 'see' objects by distracted drivers.

"The distraction of a mobile phone conversation is not the same as an in-car conversation with a passenger because the non-driver can alter their dialogue based on the driving environment, for example stop talking when approaching a complex driving situation.


Dr Haque said the distraction of mobile phone use also had an impact on driver braking behaviour.

"Distracted drivers on average reduced the speed of their vehicle faster and more abruptly than non-distracted drivers, exhibiting excess braking," he said.

"While the driver is likely to be compensating for the perceived risk of talking and driving, the abrupt or excessive braking by distracted drivers poses a safety concern to following vehicles.


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