Study compares hand-held and hands-free cellphones

While hands-free cellphones are legal to use in Washington, a study shows they may not be safe for drivers.

In Washington and in several other states across the country, talking or texting on a hand-held cellphone is prohibited while behind the wheel. Drivers who are found operating a hand-held cellphone may be ticketed and fined. As a result, many people have started using hands-free cellphones as a way to conduct business on their cellphones while driving and stay in compliance with the law. However, a study published by AAA found that using a hands-free cellphone while driving is a serious form of driver distraction and may not be as safe as some people may think.

A look at cognitive distraction

Cognitive distraction is just one form of distraction people may experience while they are trying to drive. Any task that removes a driver's concentration from driving, it considered a cognitive distraction. According to the National Safety Council, the human brain is incapable of efficiently processing two complex tasks at the same time. This includes maintaining a conversation with someone while navigating the roadway. Instead of paying attention to both tasks simultaneously, the brain switches back and forth between one activity and the other. In some cases, this may leave moments where the driver is not focused on the road at all. Not only does this pose a danger to the driver, but to everyone else on the road.

The study

A study asked participants to perform a number of distracting tasks while operating a simulation vehicle, as well as an actual car equipped with monitoring devices. Participants' brain activity, eye movement, response time and heart rate were measured as they engaged in the activities. These tasks included the following:

· Speaking with a passenger in the vehicle.

· Listening to the radio.

· Listening to an audio book.

· Using a voice activated device to compose an email.

Participants were also asked to engage in a conversation using a hand-held and a hands-free cellphone.

The results

Surprisingly, the results showed that using a hands-free cellphone was only slightly less distracting than using the hand-held model. The most distracting task involved using the voice-activated technology to compose an email, while the least distracting task was listening to the radio. Researchers found that while hands-free cellphones are legal to use, it is best to avoid using any type of cellphone while driving in order to stay fully focused on the road.

When to contact an attorney

If you or a loved one has been injured in an automobile accident, you may need to speak with a personal injury attorney in Washington regarding your legal options. You may be entitled to compensation for your physical injuries, emotional trauma, property damage and lost wages from work.