New research suggests that drivers who use hands-free electronic devices, as opposed to portable, do not increase their risk of crashing.

According to Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) research, with hands-free technology, drivers can call and perform a variety of other tasks while still keeping their hands on the wheel and eyes on the road.

"Any activity that makes manual or manual demands on the driver – texting and browsing, or picking up a phone, for example – increases the risk considerably, but our recent research has shown that the mainly cognitive secondary task is to talk have no adverse effects on a hands-free device, "said Tom Dingus, director of VTTI and the principal investigator of the study.

The researchers tried to determine to what extent the risk of an accident can be influenced by mainly mental behavior, known as cognitive distraction. Cognitive distractions take the mind, but do not require the driver to look away from the road or remove his or her hands from the wheel. Examples include interaction with a passenger, singing in the car, talking on a hands-free mobile phone and calling on a hands-free phone via voice-activated software.

Dingus and the research team analyzed video material from 3,454 drivers, 905 crashes (including 275 more serious crashes) and 19,732 control periods from & # 39; normal driving & # 39; for cases of cognitive distraction. For comparison, they also looked at examples of driver's that perform visual and manual activities, such as texting and on a telephone in the hand or adjusting the radio.

They used video and other sensor data from the Natural Strategic Driving Study of the Second Strategic Highway Research program, the largest light vehicle survey ever.

Drivers using a handheld phone increased their risk of accidents by 2 to 3.5 times compared to model driver programs, defined as alert, thoughtful, and down-to-earth. When a combination of cognitive secondary tasks was observed, the risk of accidents also increased, although not nearly to the same extent. In some cases, hands-free use of mobile phones was associated with a lower risk than the control group. None of the 275 more serious material damage and injury crashes that were analyzed were associated with the use of hands-free systems.

"There are a number of reasons why the use of a hands-free device can keep drivers more involved and focused in certain situations," Dingus said. "One of them is that the driver looks more forward during the conversation, although conducting the conversation may cause a slight delay in cognitive processing, the more likely the driver is to look in the direction of a sudden event, such as another car that suddenly stops or skates The phone call can also serve as a countermeasure against fatigue when driving a long time.More more important is that a driver who talks on a hands-free phone, less quickly deals with texting and / browsing / dialing and other high-risk behaviors. & # 39;

On 5 February, state legislators in Virginia approved legislation that aims to hold a mobile phone while driving illegally.

"VTTI's research has consistently shown that activities where a driver has to take his eyes off the front lane, such as texting and / or calling on a mobile phone, are the biggest risk." It is also important to note that in many newer cars & # 39; s driver can do some tasks hands-free using well-designed interfaces By giving the driver an option to use a safer system, this helps to comply with a new law and leads to fewer diversion-related accidents, "said Dingus.

Eight hundred and forty-three people died on Virginia roads in 2017, according to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles. Of these, 208 deaths and 14,656 injuries were attributed to distracted driving behavior, an increase of 18.2 percent compared to 2016. The use of text messages / mobile phones was mentioned as one of the top three.

Source: Virginia Tech Transportation Institute


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