U Study Finds Hands-Free Devices Still Distract from Driving


(Photo by Dane Goodwin)

(Photo by Dane Goodwin)
(Photo by Dane Goodwin)

U researchers found that driving hands-free doesn’t necessarily mean distraction-free.
The study looked into drivers who use Bluetooth devices behind the wheel and found it was just as distracting as texting. Joel Cooper and David Strayer, psychology professors at the U, led the project.
They looked at six different hands-free vehicle systems: Chevrolet’s MyLink, MyFord Touch, Chrysler’s UConnect, Toyota’s Entune and Hyundai’s Blue Link systems. The study looked at how demanding each system is for the driver by instructing participants to do various commands such as pushing a button, changing the radio station or putting in a CD with voice activation. They found that speaking to the system was distracting to drivers.
Cooper said there is room for improvement in the amount of errors the car systems make and the attention the systems demand of the driver. He is currently interested in how many students actually use their hands-free devices and like them. Strayer hopes people will learn from the study to be smarter about the way they use this technology in their cars.
Cynthia Garcia, a senior in psychology, does not have Bluetooth, but plugs her phone into an auxiliary cord to listen to music or talk to friends. She said having a deep conversation on the phone, whether you are talking hands-free or not, can be problematic, and drivers should still refrain from talking and driving.
“I learned my lesson the hard way,” Garcia said. “I’ve been in three bad accidents, and one was because of cell phone use.”
Garcia said she also learned that police officers strictly enforce cell phone policies. She got a ticket once for texting at a stop sign.
Ashley Ramey, a junior in atmospheric science, said Bluetooth is great for long distances but a hassle when only traveling for a short period of time. She said for short distances, devices take a driver’s mind off of the road.
“[Drivers become] cognitively distracted, not visually distracted,” she said.
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