Thanks to technology, everyone's driving - and walking - with hands-free cellphones tucked into their ears. Now, a Dalhousie PhD student in experimental psychology, has found that the tiny electronic devices are not at all protective, in fact they're more dangerous than hand-held phones.
"Talking and listening are such complicated tasks, especially if you're thinking ahead to what you're going to say," says Yoko Ishigami, an international student from Shizuoka, Japan.
"The conversation is what takes all your attention," she added.
Ishigami surveyed current scientific research on cellphone use, showing that talking on the phone, regardless of phone type, has negative impacts on performance, especially when the driver is confronted by complex or unpredictable situations.
Performance while using a hands-free phone was rarely found to be better than that using a hand-held phone.
Some studies found drivers compensate for the harmful effects of cellphone use when using a hand-held phone-by driving slower or pulling over to finish a call-but neglect to do so when using a hands-free phone.
"People tend to be over confident with hands-free and drive faster. They're thinking, 'I'm OK because I've got on the headgear'. Whereas if they were driving with a hand-held phone, they tend to drive slower," she added.
In the study, Ishigami review demonstrated that talking on a cellphone while driving increased the risk of an accident four-fold, and that whether the phone was hand held or hands free made no difference to the risk. Considering all the research, she concludes all cellphone use while driving should be banned.
The study "Is a hands-free phone safer than a hand-held phone?" was presented at the national conference of the Canadian Association of Road Safety Professionals.