Everyday in Phoenix there are hundreds of car accidents. So let’s focus on avoiding car accidents in the cell phone age. Most of us accept the idea that it’s safer to chat on a hands-free device while driving than to talk while holding the phone. But is it true? You may be surprised to know that science suggests otherwise.
University of Sussex researchers found in a 2016 study that drivers engaged in conversations that sparked visual images were less likely to detect visual hazards than drivers not similarly distracted. These results suggest that hands-free phone conversations may not be as safe as believed. This works against our belief that a hands free device is helpful to avoiding car accidents while using your phone.
The study, published in the Transportation Research Journal, observed the actions of 60 participants, divided into three groups of 20, in a simulated driving course littered with road hazards. The first group drove with no distractions. The second group drove while being required to answer questions that involved visualization. The third group drove while answering questions that didn’t require visualization.
The undistracted drivers performed best, spotting the highest number of hazards. Those drivers engaged in mental imagery performed the worst. Not only did this group detect the least number of hazards, but further tests also showed they focused on a smaller area of the road and missed hazards directly in front of them.
University of Sussex researcher Dr. Graham Hole says these results show that hands-free conversations aren’t safer than those on a handheld phone: “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.”
Dr. Hole says that conversations are more visual than people think. We constantly evoke mental images in conversations, even if it’s just the face of the person with whom we’re speaking.
If you’re wondering why it’s not equally unsafe to chat with passengers, the National Security Council has an answer: Yes, talking to adult passengers can be a distraction. But they are also an extra pair of eyes. They can point out hazards to the driver and are likely to stop talking when traffic is challenging.
So there’s no need to take a vow of complete silence while driving. Avoiding a Phoenix car accident and using the phone really comes down to one thing, just avoid talking on the phone. (And, to be on the safe side, if traffic is dangerous, or the conversation gets heated, always be prepared to stop talking and concentrate on the road.)
If you’ve been involved in a cell phone-related car accident, contact Zanes Law at (866) 499-8989 to see how we can help you.
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