Brake has renewed its call for the government to look again at the law surrounding hands-free mobile phones and driving, on the back of new research which concluded that talking on a hands-free phone can be just as distracting as a hand-held mobile.
The research from psychologists at the University of Sussex, published in the Transportation Research Journal, shows that drivers who are engaged in conversations that spark their visual imagination are much less able to spot and react to potential hazards.
The study also concluded that when asked about a subject that required them to visualise it, participants focussed on a smaller area of the road ahead and failed to see hazards, even when they looked directly at them.
The researchers claim their evidence shows conversations may use more of the brain’s visual processing resources than previously understood. They suggest that having a conversation which requires a driver to use their visual imagination creates competition for the brain’s processing capacity.
As a result, they conclude that drivers miss road hazards that they might otherwise have spotted.
Brake says distraction is ‘a major cause’ of road crashes and also points to separate research which estimates that up to 22% of crashes could be caused by some kind of distraction; and drivers who perform a secondary task at the wheel, like using a mobile, are up to three times more likely to crash.
Lucy Amos, research advisor for Brake, said: “Distracted driving is a major cause behind road crashes; pulling the driver’s attention away from the road and its potential hazards, potentially leading to fatal outcomes.
“This new study is only the latest of many which adds weight to extending the existing legislation to cover all mobile phone use within a vehicle, not just the use of hand-held mobile devices. We call on the government to take action and remove the clear and present danger of mobile phones on our roads.”
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— Road Safety GB (@Road_Safety_GB) June 8, 2016