How Cell Phones Distract
  • Visual – Eyes off the road
  • Mechanical – Hands off the wheel
  • Cognitive – Mind off driving
Hands-free devices offer no safety benefit when driving
  • Hands-free seen as a solution and are mistakenly believed to be safer than handheld
  • People recognize the risk of talking on handheld and texting more than the risk of hands-free
What is a Hands-Free Device?
  • Headset that communicates via wire or wireless connection to cell phone
  • Factory-installed or aftermarket feature built into vehicle (voice recognition)
Hands-free devices do not eliminate cognitive distraction
  • Cognitive distraction still exists with hands-free
  • Talking occurs on both handheld and hands-free cell phones
  • Mind focuses on conversation
  • Listen and respond to disembodied voice
  • Multitasking: A Brain Drain
  • Multitasking for the brain is a myth
  • 100% of attention can be given to only one thing at a time
  • Driving requires 100% focus to be the safest it can be
  • Human brains do not perform two tasks at the same time
  • Brain handles tasks sequentially
  • Brain switches between one task and another
  • Brain engages in a constant process to:
    • Select information brain will attend to
    • Process information
    • Encode to create memory
    • Store information
    • Retrieve information
    • Execute or act on information
When the brain is overloaded these steps are affected:
  • Brain filters information due to overload
  • Drivers not aware of information filtered out
  • Information does not get into memory
  • Drivers miss critical information on potential hazards
  • Brain juggles tasks, focus and attention
  • Brain switches between primary and secondary tasks
  • Inattention blindness – When people do two cognitively complex tasks (driving and using a cellphone), causing the brain to shift focus
  • “looking” but not “seeing”
  • Hands-free drivers less likely to see:
  • High and low relevant objects
    • Visual cues
    • Exits, red lights and stop signs
    • Navigational signage
    • Content of objects
Multitasking: Impairs Performance
  • We can walk and chew gum safely because it is not a cognitively-demanding task
  • Even cell phone-using pedestrians act unsafely. They are less likely to:
    • Look for traffic before stepping into street
    • Look at traffic while crossing street
    • Notice unusual objects placed along path
Driving involves a more complex set of tasks than walking
  • Visual
  • Manual
  • Cognitive
  • Auditory
A driver’s job is to watch for hazards, but this cannot be done when the brain is overloaded.
Cell Phone: Typical driver behaviors
  • Inattention blindness
  • Slower reaction/response times
  • Problems staying in lane

Ref: Carnegie Mellon University Study (Multitasking); National Safety Council