The risk of making a phone call with a hands-free device while driving is the same as holding a cell phone in hand, research released by the University of Sussex in the UK has revealed.
Drivers may visualize the subject of their phone call, making them shift focus away from the road. Thus drivers can fail to be aware of what is happening on the road, which can slow down their reaction speed when facing hazards, the study claimed.
‘Those who made a hands-free call while driving took around 0.65 seconds longer to react to a hazard on the side of the road than those who were fully focused.’
Forhe study, half of a group of 20 male and 40 female volunteers were asked to drive while making a call with a hands-free device, while the other half remained focused on the road.
During the test, they were given simulated hazards such as pedestrians stepping onto the road and driving while being distracted by a human voice.
"At 30 miles per hour, that's an extra stopping distance of 8.7 meters. They took even longer to react to a hazard situation that appeared directly ahead of them; around 0.98 seconds longer than undistracted drivers," said Gemma Briggs, Study Head.
The good news is that researchers said it was safe for a driver to talk to passengers inside the car, as they shared the same environment.