Hands-free devices just as risky, NTSB suggests ban

By on December 15, 2011, 3:00 PM

Over 40 percent of 6,000 drivers surveyed believe hands-free headsets are safe to use while driving, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. However, the National Transportation and Safety Board would most definitely disagree. The argument against hands-free devices boils down to this: it is not what you're doing with your hands, but rather, with your mind.

In light of numerous studies over several years, the NTSB recommended this week that states ban all forms of cellphone usage while driving, including hands-free devices. While the agency's controversial recommendation cannot force states or local governments to impose such measures, it does raise questions about the benefits of hands-free devices and almost certainly weighs heavily on legislators to act.

The senior vice president of research at the IIHS, Anne McCartt, told reporters, "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".

Associated Press reports that after recently examining over 300 studies regarding cellphone safety for the Governors Highway Safety Association, Jim Hedlund couldn't recall a single study that showed hands-free equipment lowered the risk of automobile accidents versus simply using the cell phone in a traditional manner. Jim Hedlund is a safety consultant and a former National Highway Traffic Safety Administration official.

Similar results have also shown up in other countries. One study performed by the government of Sweden found, "There is no evidence suggesting that hands-free mobile phone use is less risky than handheld use." 

Marcel Just, a director at Carnegie Mellon University's Center for Cognitive Brain Imaging, seems to also agree with those findings. His research project puts individuals to the test inside a driving simulator while scanning their brain activity with an MRI device. When the drivers are spoken to, the result is approximately a 37% decrease in brain activity for areas thought to be responsible for performing tasks like driving. 

"The human mind can multitask, but each task is performed with less brain power and lower proficiency," Just said. "When someone is speaking your native language, you can't will yourself to not hear and process it. It just goes in," and ultimately even if the driver attempts to ignore the words, Just claims scientists, "can see activation in the auditory cortex, in the language areas." of the brain.




User Comments: 21

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Guest said:

So will they outlaw having passengers as well? Or maybe we'll all eventually be driving around in one-seater cones of silence. You might go crazy and cause an accident, but at least it wasn't caused by having a conversation with someone.

Chazz said:

^ Thats exactly what I was going to suggest. Should they ban car-pooling?

Guest said:

Bubble wrap, they need to mandate bubble wrap. Everyone in the car must be wrapped in it, the car must be wrapped in it, the road covered with it, Gas tank filled with it, etc.

Then we can talk on our cell phones as much as we want because we'll be perfectly safe!

Guest said:

im agree with this. and i admit that the passengers also alter my attention.

killeriii said:

lol, i was thinking the same thing.

Are they just ignoring the fact that using a hand-held takes one hand off the wheel, whereas hands free does not.

Orionlocke said:

So whats next, banning any talking whatsoever while driving since it's not the phone but the act of talking thats so dangerous....I seen you were talking to your passenger...heres your ticket.

Burty117 Burty117, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Does that mean buses will get banned altogether? And radio? What about taxi's?

There's no evidence to suggest using a hands free kit lowers crash rates? Well how about instead you take the statistics of how many cars have crashed which was equipped with, and activated, hands free kits vs how many haven't crashed which where equipped with hands free kits? Then do the same with cars that don't? Although I guess it will still be swayed by how many cars there are on the road.

Either way if this rule gets used any where I can see it leading to even more laws down the road.

I wonder if the people who come up with these rules actually drive?

Burty117 Burty117, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Or better yet, make it apart of the test when learning to drive to help get used to distractions? On the day of the test make it customary to have the radio on and have your trainer in the back seat chatting away. Make it appart of the scoring system, 4 points added as distractions were not an issue or -2 because you failed to leave a junction in a timely manner due to distractions? I dunno, guess it would need quite a lot of thought put into it.

Guest said:

I was driving down the motorway one day with some b1tch behind me driving no hands smoking and talking on her phone and all I can think of is why ? Admittedly not a hands free kit but still.

Why would you risk other peoples lives and increase your chances of having an accident. Why do people feel the need to always be connected. Take some time out ffs. Passengers can be distracting, kids fighting in the back, and accidents do happen. Why add an extra person to help distract in a situation where you have to be responsible who isnt even there?

I dont really care, but when someone is being an irresponsible douche bag and has an accident, you want them to die and hope that the other peoples lives they have affected are ****** who had it coming, but usually it isnt, its some poor innocent shmuck wrong place wrong time.

topcoach said:

Does this mean that listening to the radio would also be deemed to be to distracting while driving.

Guest said:

I am sure Ford, Chevy, Gm, M$ would let this happen. It would be great for there business, You know with sync, Onstar, Mylink and such.

Guest said:

People will get dumber, Its just a fact. Instead of making laws to try to mitigate stupidity, We need to spend the money to make vehicles smarter as the people get dumber.

p51d007 said:

Tell ya what NTSB...

I will go along with this ban if, and ONLY if....

1. Ban anyone on a two way radio.

Just because you have a CDL, or a badge pinned to your shirt, makes you immune from

being distracted on a CB radio yacking away, or a law enforcement radio, or using an MDT (mobile data terminal).

2. Ban anyone from listening to music while driving.

3. Ban anyone from drinking coffee, juice, soda, eating ANY kind of food.

4. Ban anyone from talking to anyone in the car, including screaming at kids in the back seat.

See how this is just ridiculous?

There are already laws on the books, to account for distracted driving.

C&I (careless and imprudent) covers sh*t like this, but no...we have to have the

government step in and save us from ourselves once again.

Wendig0 Wendig0, TechSpot Paladin, said:

p51d007 said:

Tell ya what NTSB...

I will go along with this ban if, and ONLY if....

1. Ban anyone on a two way radio.

Just because you have a CDL, or a badge pinned to your shirt, makes you immune from

being distracted on a CB radio yacking away, or a law enforcement radio, or using an MDT (mobile data terminal).

2. Ban anyone from listening to music while driving.

3. Ban anyone from drinking coffee, juice, soda, eating ANY kind of food.

4. Ban anyone from talking to anyone in the car, including screaming at kids in the back seat.

See how this is just ridiculous?

There are already laws on the books, to account for distracted driving.

C&I (careless and imprudent) covers sh*t like this, but no...we have to have the

government step in and save us from ourselves once again.

This is exactly what I was thinking... The Government, all too often, puts their noses where it doesn't belong.

Guest said:

if that txt message/phone call is so important...pull the **** over

foreverzero89 said:

not to mention that this would be impossible to enforce. the cop would had no way of knowing if you were actually on the phone or not. that and the cop would have to pay more attention to other drivers seeing weather or not they even had a handsfree device on.

Guest said:

It won't be long before you have sensors on the steering wheels to make sure your hands are in the 10 and 2 position, head sensoring units to make sure your eyes are on the road, audible listening devices to make sure you are driving in silence, etc, etc all wired to some network that a cop can check to make sure you're following the rules. These studies are ridiculous.

Guest said:

I'll also add...who do you think pays for and pushes these studies to be made. The people who want to make these into laws that's who. These numbers are skewed to reflect the information the persons paying for them wants them to reflect. Lots of people want to attach any all "accidents"(using a broad term) to single identifiable reasons. But the fact is, there are too many variables to equate. It's just easier to say..."This happens because of this"..media trumps it up as a damnable offense and gets majority of the public behind itso it's easier to play to the public.

TL;DR

Seems these days people are forgetting sometimes......**** JUST HAPPENS.

Guest said:

the problem with talking on the phone while driving is not the hands, but the attention. That's why you get a ''don't talk to driver'' notice on buses.

Renrew Renrew said:

Texting and telephone useage bans while driving, in countries where they are prohibited, seem to be making a huge difference in fatalities and injuries. In the UK, for example, the per capita traffic deaths per are 1/3 of what they are in the U.S.. Austria 1/4, Germany 1/4.

Last year approximately 38,000 people were killed and another 600,000 were maimed in traffic accidents in the U.S.. Common sense dictates that distracted driving via texting and/or cell phone useage, contributed to some of these fatalities.

Do you really think taking a life or maiming another human being or yourself, is justified by your need to stay connected? Is your call really that important that it can't wait until you stop or pull off the road. If you do, you must take responsibility for this government intervention and have nothing other to blame but your own disregard for your fellow man.

isamuelson isamuelson said:

p51d007 said:

3. Ban anyone from drinking coffee, juice, soda, eating ANY kind of food.

Actually, in a small town where I work, this IS a ticket-able offense. It's considered distracted driving to be eating a sandwich, etc while driving. They've already made it an offense to drive while texting (which I agree with that one since it CAN take your eyes off the road).

Otherwise, I guess you might as well outlaw having a passenger IF they are going to talk to you. Otherwise, they have to be quiet.

Some things are being taken too far and this is one of them (that is, banning hands-free devices now).

I guess I better not go and try to change the channel of my radio. I mean, it means taking my eyes off of the road for a second. YIKES!

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