Mobile Use on the Road Is Dangerous, Even With Hands-Free Devices
AAA is using the findings to promote dialogue with policy makers, safety advocates and industry leaders on mobile safety while driving.Dangerous mental distractions exist even when drivers keep their hands on the wheel and their eyes on the road, despite the common belief that hands-free technologies make it easier and safer for motorists to text, talk on the phone or even use social networking sites while they drive, according to findings from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. Cognitive distraction expert Dr. David Strayer and his research team at the University of Utah measured brainwaves, eye movement and other metrics to assess what happens to drivers' mental workload when they attempt to do multiple things at once, building upon decades of research in the aerospace and automotive industries. The research included cameras mounted inside an instrumented car to track eye and head movement of drivers; a Detection-Response-Task device known as the "DRT" to record driver reaction time in response to triggers of red and green lights added to their field of vision; and a special electroencephalographic (EEG)-configured skull cap to chart participants' brain activity so that researchers could determine mental workload. The research found that as mental workload and distractions increase, reaction time slows, brain function is compromised, drivers scan the road less and they miss visual cues, potentially resulting in drivers not seeing items right in front of them, including stop signs and pedestrians. With a predicted fivefold increase in infotainment systems in new vehicles by 2018, AAA is calling for action as result of this research.
"There is a looming public safety crisis ahead with the future proliferation of these in-vehicle technologies," AAA President and CEO Robert Darbelnet said in a statement. "It's time to consider limiting new and potentially dangerous mental distractions built into cars, particularly with the common public misperception that hands-free means risk-free."