So if you're driving on a busy road while using a hands-free phone, you may fail to spot common risks like people crossing the road or the traffic signal changing colours, even if you're looking straight at such risks. Given that chatting on phones while driving are a major cause of accidents, using hands-free phones are just as risky even if both of your hands are on the wheel.
“A popular misconception is that using a mobile phone while driving is safe as long as the driver uses a hands-free phone. Our research shows this is not the case. Hands-free can be equally distracting because conversations cause the driver to visually imagine what they’re talking about. This visual imagery competes for processing resources with what the driver sees in front of them on the road,: said Dr Graham Hole, Senior Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Sussex to Portsmouth.co.uk.
“Our findings have implications for real-life mobile phone conversations. The person at the other end of the phone might ask “where did you leave the blue file?”, causing the driver to mentally search a remembered room. The driver may also simply imagine the facial expression of the person they’re talking to," he added.
What Dr. Hole says is something we are all aware of. Chatting with someone on the phone consumes all our attention, resulting in us losing focus on other things that we're doing at the same time. When we're driving, we need to focus all out attention on the road to ensure no mishaps occur because of our loss of focus, and if we're talking on hands-free phones at the same time, the chances of mishaps may increase significantly.
“Clearly this research isn’t a green light to use hand-held mobile phones while driving, however. The use of hand-held phones was made illegal primarily because they interfere with vehicle control; but our study adds to a mounting body of research showing that both hand-held and hands-free phones are dangerously distracting for drivers. The only ‘safe’ phone in a car is one that’s switched off," says Dr. Hole. We can't agree more.
Back in April, a survey by Motoring.co.uk revealed that 57 per cent of drivers in the UK feel that they are in control when using mobile phones while driving. The survey added that the optimism comes despite the fact that using mobile phones while driving account for 6 per cent of all fatal accidents. Thanks to the survey, it also came to light that one in every four drivers use their mobile phones while driving at high speeds and 43 per cent of all drivers do not hesitate to use mobile phones behind the wheel.
“We understand that mobile phone use is a huge part of our everyday lives, but it’s evident from this survey that drivers underestimate how much they are distracted by them. This may come as a worry to firms that rely on a fleet of drivers to carry out their business. It’s clear that better driver education is needed, as well as harsher penalties,” said Terry Hogan, Managing Director at Motoring.co.uk.