Hands-free texting while driving is still dangerous, according to studies

Texting while driving is obviously really dangerous, and many states have already banned the use of mobile phones altogether while driving, with more and more states moving closer to that goal. However, with voice controls in smartphones becoming more prevalent, drivers are resorting to hands-free texting in the car, but recent studies show that hands-free texting is just as dangerous as hands-on texting.

California just passed a law that states that drivers are allowed to use mobile phones while driving, as long as its all done by voice. However, several groups, such as the National Safety Council for California, are begging the state to rethink the new law, saying that voice-texting while driving is still unsafe, and may be even just as dangerous as regular texting while in the car.

Researchers and psychologists have demonstrated in the past that people suffer significant impairment when they use a mobile phone while driving, and a study conducted by David Strayer of the University of Utah says that participants talking on a mobile phone had slower reaction times and were involved in more simulated accidents than when they weren't on their phones — hands-free or not.

The participants' cognitive impairment levels were around the same as those of participants who got in the simulator after drinking enough alcohol to register a 0.08% blood-alcohol content, which would be considered illegal in all 50 states. While hands-on texting certainly seems more dangerous than hands-free texting, studies have shown that sending a simple voice text led drivers to take their eyes off the road more often than usual, and they reported a higher mental demand during the experiment.

While you may be quick to retort that voice texting and chatting with people sitting in the passenger seat are the same thing, Strayer says that each of the two activities use different parts of the brain. Strayer's research has shown that the mobile phone distractions in the car isn't just physical, but also cognitive, meaning that drivers who use mobile phones "create weak memories of objects in the driving environment, suggesting a great deal of attention is drawn away from the road."

[via The Atlantic Cities]