Saturday, May 19, 2007

Hands-Free Phone Conversations Dangerous For Drivers, Study Says

Many places, including the UK, have mandated the use of a hands-free calling device if a driver wants to use a cell phone while operating a vehicle. There has been concern for years whether making phone calls while driving--even with a hands-free device--is safe. Supporters of hands-free calling claim that such calls are similar to speaking with a passenger in the back seat, for example. Well, this study by the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) of the UK's Department of Transport came to some pretty unsettling conclusions about such calls.

Automotive Digest recently summarized the findings of the TRL's study. (Original UK-based link here.) But TRL's main conclusion is:
  • "One clear implication is that using a mobile phone via a hands-free kit while driving is not equivalent to talking to a passenger. It is a much more difficult task. The obvious conclusion is that it is not worth the increased potential risk of using a hands-free carphone."

TRL suggests that hands-free calling is more difficult than talking to a passenger in the vehicle because:

  • The lack of proximity of the conversationalist and the possible pauses in the voice transmission require the driver to exert more mental effort on the conversation; and,
  • The person on the other end of the line is not present in the car like a passenger, and therefore cannot react to changing road conditions to help the driver in the same way a passenger can.

TRL also found that drivers engaged in hands-free calling tend to drive faster, with more variation in speed, and that their ability to safely follow vehicles in front of them lessened.

This study is the first I've seen that supports the evidence we've all seen first-hand on the road. How many times have you seen a car being driven poorly or dangerously on the road only to later notice that the driver is talking on a cell phone--hands-free device or not? If more such studies come to similar conclusions, we might see more companies ban their employees from having hands-free phone conversations while driving or even governmental regulations to prevent it. In the meantime, these conclusions may be enough to make you consider whether it's really worth taking a call next time you're behind the wheel.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ya... it really dangerous to talk while driving.... Every one sud aviod it. I use my Bluetooth Headset only at home or in the office not while driving..