Handsfree Kits Don't Make Driving While Yakking Any Safer

from the hmmm dept

For a few years now I’ve had one of those little handsfree earpiece/microphone things that attach to your cell phone for use while driving. I’ve used it maybe 3 times. It’s a pain to set up, and then you either have to drive the whole time with the annoying earbud in your ear, or you have to fiddle and shove it in your ear when the phone rings – which to me is more distracting than just answering the phone. In the past week, though, I finally decided to do something about this, and set up a “poor man’s” car phone system. For $4 at Walgreens I bought a little plastic thing that attaches to an air vent and holds my mobile phone where it’s easily viewable. For $15 at Fry’s I bought this device that has a “cassette tape” that goes into the tape player with two wires sticking out. One connects to the phone. The other is a microphone, which I’ve clipped to a different vent. If someone calls, I just need to switch the radio mode to tape (doable from the steering wheel control) and flip up my phone (which can be done without looking at the phone). It works wonderfully. And, when I use it, I can tell that I’m paying much better attention to the road than when I used the phone alone (or the earbud/microphone method). So, now that that’s all set up, here’s comes a study showing that setups just like mine are still unsafe. Especially if you’re an older woman (which, I’m not). Maybe we should all just stop driving.

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Comments on “Handsfree Kits Don't Make Driving While Yakking Any Safer”

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Kato says:

Re: yeah right

Well, I didn’t access the NYTimes article but it’s not an issue of hands free, it’s an issue of your mind’s eye being busy. Sounds weird til you think of about it…
I recently saw studies and film results where they scan the brains of people doing one task that requires external sensory skills — monitoring surroundings, eyes giving information to brain to leverage reaction times to external changes, etc. Then scans of same brain being required to do two or three things at once, including one task that specifically required speech and more “internal” concentration.

The energy highlighted in the brain for one task at one time was significantly larger than the same tasks’ allotted brain capacity once it was asked to multitask. And I for one believe it; I confess when I’m using my cell phone while driving sometimes I am aware that my mind’s eye is elsewhere, jabbering at a colleague and demanding a faxed contract by 3pm or else–and I can tell I’m “seeing” how close the license plate in front of me is but that perception feels rather on autopilot, that I’m not always completely “in the moment, on the road” and my response times are going through the motions and idly hoping they won’t be required.


mhh5 says:

Re: Re: yeah right

yes, this is why they also tell you not to drive when you’re emotionally distraught. So in the end, these studies are just telling people that they need to keep their minds on driving — whether you’re on a cell phone, fiddling with the radio, lighting up a smoke, putting on makeup, eating, yelling at your toddlers, etc while driving at the same time.

maybe what we really need are bumper cars…. or that Mercedes system that automatically slows you down if it thinks you’re tailgating.

ScooterBoy says:


here’s another factor that my brother brought up, which i thought was interesting… when you have a conversation on the phone, the other party does not pause when they notice that you need to do something more thought-intensive, like.. a highway merge, or a left turn, etc.. so that’s why a phone conversation is MUCH more dangerous than a conversation with someone IN the car.. handsfree or not…

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