Hands-Free Communication is Still Distracting Drivers

The idea that keeping two hands on the steering wheel and your eyes on the road means that you are driving safety was just proven wrong by a new study commissioned by the American Automotive Association (AAA) and the University of Utah. After studying subjects using hands-free In-Vehicle Information Systems they found that even after they stopped using it, it took a while for the brain to switch back to giving driving their full attention.

The study broke users up into three classes based on age (21-34, 35-52 and 54-70) with a minimum of 4 males and 4 females in each category. The study tested their cognitive abilities as they used one of 10 different In-Vehicle Information Systems (IVIS). The vehicles were as follows:

  • Buick LaCrosse
  • Chevy Equinox
  • Chevy Malibu
  • Chrysler 200C
  • Ford Taurus
  • Hyundia Sonata
  • Mazda 6
  • Nissan Altima Toyota 4Runner
  • VW Passat

The results of the study concluded that practice does not eliminate distraction. Doing the same tasks over and over doesn’t mean that you get less distracted when you do them.

There were difference in the IVIS depending on how easy or difficult the tasks were to perform.

Most importantly, the study concluded that even hands-free, voice activated IVIS still impaired cognitive abilities in drivers and that those distractions remained up to almost half a minute after the task was performed.

Part of the problem with IVIS is that, without any data to back this, we are being directly or indirectly lead to believe that we can have our cake and eat it too. Fact is that anything that takes even a portion of our attention off the road is a distraction that can lead to accidents.

If you want to read the whole study, it is located here and is 46 pages in length.

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