Sorry folks, science says hands-free calls are still a big driving distraction

Hands-free technology is largely viewed as the solution to phone-addicted drivers, but another study has surfaced that disagrees. According to QUT's study, which utilized the CARRS-Q Advanced Driving Simulator as part of its research, hands-free phone use while driving is still quite a distraction, delaying reaction time significantly compared to those who weren't using any phones, hands-free or otherwise.

The study was performed by Queensland University of Technology School of Civil Engineering's Dr. Shimul Haque, who recently unveiled his findings at a distracted driving seminar. Based on the study, drivers using hands-free phone technology had the same poor reaction time as drivers using their phone without the technology — about a 40-percent delayed reaction compared to other drivers.

Putting that into an easier to envision example, a driver would lose about 11 meters at 40km/hr compared to a non-distracted driver — meaning someone on the phone would hit the brakes 11m later and lose that potential stopping distance. Those 11 meters could mean the difference between stopping a car in time or ramming into a pedestrian or another car. These distracted drivers were also noted for excess braking.

As you've probably guessed, the delayed reaction is similar between hands-free and hands-on phone calls because its not the actual holding-the-phone part that's the issue. Holding a conversation — regardless of whether both hands are on the wheel — takes away a bit of your attention from the road and redirects it to holding the conversation, reducing the cognitive power you can dedicate solely to driving.