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Handsfree mobiles are just as dangerous

Discussion in 'Research, Studies, and Data' started by Vertical C, Dec 16, 2011.

  1. Just going to put this here for anyone to use for later.


    Research shows hands-free mobiles just as risky in cars
    Joan Lowy
    December 16, 2011 - 9:23AM
    Is using your mobile phone while driving really that distracting?

    Is using your mobile phone while driving really that distracting?

    WASHINGTON – When someone is talking to you, your brain is listening, processing and thinking about what's being said — even if you're in the driver's seat trying to concentrate on traffic.

    That's why drivers get distracted during mobile phone conversations, even when using hands-free phones, researchers say. It's also part of the reason why the US National Transportation Safety Board made a recommendation this week it knows a lot of drivers won't like — that US states ban hands-free, as well as hand-held, mobile phone use while driving.

    It's not where your hands are, but where your mind is that counts, NTSB chairman Deborah Hersman told reporters.
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    The board doesn't have the power to force states to impose a ban, but its recommendations carry significant weight. And, judging from the public reaction, they've already started a national conversation on the subject. NTSB has been swamped with calls, emails and tweets from drivers both praising and condemning the action.

    It's the proposed hands-free ban that has generated the most controversy.

    What's next? No passengers? No kids? No tuning the radio? Maybe NTSB will ban driving altogether, was the tenor of the response on Twitter.

    The scientific evidence, however, is generally with NTSB, researchers said.

    "There is a large body of evidence showing that talking on a phone, whether hand-held or hands-free, impairs driving and increases your risk of having a crash," Anne McCartt, senior vice president for research at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, said.

    Jim Hedlund, a safety consultant and former National Highway Traffic Safety Administration official, recently examined 300 mobile phone studies for the Governors Highway Safety Association. He couldn't recall a single study that showed drivers talking on a headset or hands-free phone were at any less risk of an accident than drivers with one hand on the wheel and a phone in the other.

    A similar analysis for the government of Sweden recently came to the same conclusion: "There is no evidence suggesting that hands-free mobile phone use is less risky than handheld use."

    What's missing is hard evidence that accidents are increasing because of cellphone use. One reason is that US privacy laws have made it difficult for researchers to study whether mobile phones were in use in accidents in the US. The two large studies that have been done — in Canada and Australia — found drivers were four times more likely to have a crash if talking on a mobile phone. It didn't matter whether the mobile phone was hands-free or hand-held.

    But that hasn't translated to an increase in highway fatalities in the US, where they hit their lowest level since 1949 last year.

    Of 6000 drivers surveyed by the highway administration, 40 per cent said they don't consider it unsafe for drivers to talk on a hands-free mobile phone. Less than 12 per cent said that about a hand-held phone.

    Marcel Just, director of Carnegie Mellon University's Center for Cognitive Brain Imaging, isn't surprised.

    It's counterintuitive to think that hands-free talking is dangerous because people don't have any sense that their conversation is draining brain power away from driving, but that's exactly what's happening, he said.

    Just is the co-author of a 2008 study that used driving simulators to test the performance of drivers not engaged in conversation and drivers who could hear someone talking to them through headphones. Drivers took the simulator tests inside an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) machine that recorded images of changes in their brains while driving, including which areas of the brain were used for driving. The amount of the brain devoted to driving was 37 per cent less in drivers who could hear someone talking to them than for drivers not using mobile phones.

    "The human mind can multitask, but each task is performed with less brain power and lower proficiency," Just said.

    The driving simulators also showed a deterioration of skills on the part of drivers who could hear someone talking to them, including weaving between lanes and edging over the side of the road.

    "When someone is speaking your native language, you can't will yourself to not hear and process it. It just goes in," Just said. Even if a driver tries to ignore the words, scientists "can see activation in the auditory cortex, in the language areas (of the brain)".

    Accident investigators have seen cases of drivers talking on hands-free phones whose minds are so engrossed in their conversations that they ran into something plainly visible.

    In a 2004, a bus driver taking students on a class trip drove his 12-foot-high (3.65-metre-high) bus into a 10-foot, 2-inch-high (3.09-metre-high) bridge arch in Alexandria, Virginia, peeling off the roof of the bus. There were signs warning drivers about the height of the bridge, and the bus driver was familiar with the route. He also saw a bus in front of him change lanes to avoid the low arch. But the bus driver, who was talking a hands-free phone at the time, drove right into it.

    "There is a standard code for crash investigations called roughly `look, but didn't see'. In other words, I was looking in the right place, but I didn't register what was there," Hedlund said.

    Of course, drivers don't have to be using mobile phones to have conversations — they talk with passengers all the time. But talking to an adult passenger doesn't involve the same risk as a phone conversation, researchers said. That's because passengers are engaged in the driving experience with the driver. If they see a danger, they'll usually warn the driver. Passengers also tend to instinctually adjust their conversation to the level of traffic and other difficulties confronting the driver.

    There are lots of other things that go on in cars that are risky: eating and drinking, tuning the radio, studying maps and applying makeup, for example. Just like talking on the phone, most of those things involve a choice by the driver.

    As for the screaming toddler in the backseat demanding attention, "some things are just part of life", McCartt said.


    Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/digital-life/...sky-in-cars-20111216-1oxgg.html#ixzz1gfMPG6gS
  2. personally I agree with it... Prob not a popular view point, but then even when I drive I try not to hold conversations with my passengers. When you've had a family member killed by someone eating a chocolate bar, it makes you think.

    I don't think worse of anyone if they do. Some people can multi-task well. I think I can (for a bloke) but I know I wouldnt want to cause an accident and have that on my concious.

    But really, better training is still prob number1 in my opinion. Train people better less need for silly laws.
  3. Might be something in it. I've always thought the greater problem is people looking at the display rather than aural processing, but could easily be wrong.

    I'd like to see a comparison study that compared talking on hands-free with talking to a flesh and blood passenger, or music, before slapping another rule on the books, though.
    The other factor is hands-free compared to texting, actively operating sat nav, music functions etc.
  4. agreed. I think it would be hard to single out 1 thing over many others that seem to be very similar in nature.
  5. Since you can't realistically legislate away all the equivalent distractions, the only real way to deal with people not understanding what it does to their attention on the road is to emphasise it the same way we do tired driving, surely?agraphs are :p
  6. This is no doubt one of the big factors that differentiates chatting on the phone to chatting to a passenger.

    Then consider that many phone conversations while driving will be work or somehow task related in a way that the passenger conversation usually isn't (or if the passenger is discussing work, the above difference applies) and the higher degree of concentration - as well as anxiety, frustration or whatever else privately goes on while working or doing business - and so distraction involved in that. It is bad enough when people are eating, finding directions, and so forth. But to add such conversations on top of that? While propelling a heavy weapon? Any new restrictive law needs honest research to justify its imposition, but my sense tells me that this is probably a very sound law that should be applied universally.
  7. Four times the risk is something like 0.0001 versus 0.0004 probability. Still unlikely.

    Given the confines & pressures of the Australian way of life & the necessities, i think most people accept this risk and want to be able to talk at least on their phones. City folk especially. If they commute 3 hrs a day, that's a lot of personal time lost not catching up & fostering their relationships. Social stress will go higher. No phone use while mobile will also mean huge costs for businesses. The world has moved on from pre mobile ways & strategies.

    The NHTSA is known to be a fairly narrow focused organization. This is just more of the same.

    - - -
    Tapatalking loud, saying somethin'
  8. Actually, they're some pretty convincing points you make. My yardstick tends to be imaginatively explaining to some pre-mobile motorcyclists what we have to face on the road in terms of gadgets in cars, as if it wasn't bad enough in their day. Maybe people will just develop the skill to perform this particular multi-tasking? I do, however, retain my basic concerns. It's less of an issue for new car drivers, as safety features meet the increase in other risks. But for the rest of us who get rear-ended / t-boned? Although, what's my risk of serious injury or death from my choice to ride in comparison to 0.0004? i'm guessing it's higher?
  9. Matt do you mean what's your risk of a crash simply because you choose to ride or your risk on your ride because of a phone using driver?

    Just as an aside, I have a theory that good riders make far fewer mistakes than drivers... But we pay more for ours & of course pay for the mistakes of others. The naturalistic studies going on in the EU & USA might finally prove/disprove my theory.
  10. Had some stupid old bitty hit the back of my gf's wagon yesterday actually.. gf said "i wish this stupid b1tch would get off my @rse while she fumbles in her handbag for her mobile" then.. crunch...

    My words to the bitty were "How about you keep your brain on the job? If I was a motorcyclist I'd be waiting for a spine board right now"

    With these slow speed limits everywhere, people think its safe to take care of other things while driving.. such as phone calls, makeup, cd changes, eating, tinkering with navmans etc..
  11. The point of my question is to wonder to what degree the statistical level of risk I've accepted simply by virtue of riding a bike is increased by the conclusions of that research - i.e. what was it without the research conclusions, and what is it with them?

    Unimportantly, reading my above post I see that I should have written "drivers of new cars" now "new car drivers".
  12. Matt matt matt, haven't you seen the commercials? Your 38 times more likely to be... Blah blah blah lol If you want some info how to improve your risks have a look at the risk link in my sig.

    Anyway looks like politicians in the US are universally ignoring this call to ban mobiles. The news articles are interesting. Seems pragmatism wins. They've also noted how cynical the NTSB spin was... Two dead & 38 injuries sound atrocious... Two school band busses crashed into the wreckage... So the NTSB were having a go at politics of the margins, a lot like our own Vic pollies & authorities, but not as successfully.

  13. Could we please round up anybody who actually thinks this is counterintuitive and revoke their licences?

    Of course being distracted affects your ability to perform complex tasks.
  14. Being an idiot reduces the amount of brain power available for driving as well.
    • Like Like x 1
  15. yet we have rider to pillion kits, and riders with IPods and Iphones, couldn't they also be placed in the "dangerous distractions" list.

    I would have in excess of 20 or so handsfree conversations during the week while out in the company car, if it's a conversation I need to think about and I'm not on the freeway I will normally pull over, but for day to day "can this miracle happen today" sort of shit I am happy to talk away while driving....

    p.s. I honestly believe those fucks who play with their Ipods to find the right tunes are far more dangerous than handsfree moblies.

  16. "Dangerous distractions" is an idiotic Media phrase. They're all distractions.
    All distractions are potentially dangerous

    I'm not arguing for any of these things to be banned (including mobiles)
    But everyone using them should be aware that they're distractions and make a risk assessment based on their circumstances. (like your example above of only dealing with simple conversations while driving)

    I was suggesting that anybody who reacts with surprise when told using a phone while driving is a distraction shouldn't be allowed on the roads.