You may think that using a Bluetooth or other hands-free device would be a safe way to talk on your phone while driving. Think again, according to a new study released by researchers at the University of Sussex.
In order to determine whether Bluetooth devices are distracting for drivers, despite the fact that this technology is designed to be hands-free, researchers tracked drivers’ eye movements while they chatted. The researchers concluded that although Bluetooth technology allows drivers to keep their hands on the wheel, drivers may still be less aware of hazards on the road.
The study can be found in Transportation Research Part F: Traffic Psychology and Behaviour.
Why Talking on a Hands-Free Bluetooth Devices Is Distracting
It makes sense that talking on a traditional cellphone would be dangerous because a driver is unable to keep both hands on the wheel. However, researchers concluded that it is not just the nature of having a hand off of the wheel that is risky for drivers.
Instead, talking on a cellphone was found to be not just manually distracting but visually distracting as well. In fact, Dr. Graham Hole, senior lecturer in psychology at the University of Sussex, told reporters for Medical Daily that, “Conversations are more visual than we might expect, leading drivers to ignore parts of the outside world in favor of their inner ‘visual world’ – with concerning implications for road safety.”
In other words, when a person has a conversation with someone, they often visualize what is being discussed. As such, they are less able to zero in and focus on objects within their actual field of vision.
In the study, participants who were asked to answer questions while driving responded more slowly to hazards, and they detected fewer hazards than those drivers who were asked to drive without distractions.
Are Bluetooth Devices Illegal in Virginia?
Teens in the state of Virginia are prohibited from using a cellphone while driving, regardless of whether that device is handheld, according to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles. This ban also applies to school bus drivers.
However, adult drivers are prohibited only from texting while driving, but they are legally allowed to use hands-free devices while operating motor vehicles. Despite the law, drivers would do well to put all distractions away while operating their vehicles, whether the technology is hands-free or not.
As highlighted by the study, any distractions behind the wheel can be dangerous and reduce a driver’s risk of seeing and reacting to road hazards.
What to Do If You Are Injured in a Distracted Driving Crash in Northern Virginia
If you or a loved one has been hurt in a distracted driving crash in Northern Virginia, our talented Manassas distracted driving attorneys can help you pursue full and fair compensation for your injuries. Contact us now by phone or online to schedule a free, no-obligation case consultation.