Hands-free as distracting as using phone in car

Hands-free as distracting

Drivers who use a hands-free phone in the car, are likely to be just as distracted as those who hold their mobiles in their hand, according to some researchers.

Those who worked on this from the University of Sussex found that conversations can cause the driver to visually imagine what they're talking about, and that just happens to be the same bit of your brain that you use to watch the road.

As such, the lead researcher on this paper has said that all phones should be banned from cars.

Motorists - feel free to yell obscenities (not that you needed any encouragement in the first place - we've seen you yelling during the rush hour out of your window).

The study involved two groups of volunteers. One group were allowed to drive without distraction, the while another two heard a male voice from a loudspeaker 3ft (0.9m) away.

The groups that were distracted by the voice, took just under a second longer to respond to events (like people stepping into the road, oncoming cars, and the like).

The study showed that asking a simple question like "Where did you leave the blue file?"during a phone call could end up having someone behind the wheel, who concentrates on an area four times smaller than someone who is not distracted.

That's because their brain is trying to image the room, where they left the aforementioned file. They do that, rather than check the potential dangers they're meeting.

Dr Graham Hole, a man who is probably tired of people tittering at his surname, senior lecturer in psychology at the University of Sussex, said that this shows that the "popular misconception that using a mobile phone while driving is safe as long as the driver uses a hands-free phone".

"The problem is enforceability - it's very difficult for the police to tell if someone's using a hands-free phone."

"But on balance, I think the law should be changed to get the right message across and make it absolutely clear that any use of a mobile phone while driving is hazardous."

Of course, this research could also be applied to absolutely anyone speaking to a driver, surely? That means passengers should be banned as well.

That said, Dr Hole (stop it now) has looked at other studies, which suggest that hands-free noise is more off-putting than a fellow passenger, or listening to music in the car.

Either way, a driver can be fined £100 for using their mobile as a handheld device while driving, so until further notice, keep using your hands-free.


  • youngatwork

    No different to holding a conversation with a passenger, or listening to the radio.

  • Jim

    Who has a conversation with the radio?

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