Solutions for Distracted Drivers: a Hands-Free Cell Phone

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Table of Contents

  • Effects of Multitasking on Driving Performance: Cognitive and Visual Distractions
  • Hands-Free Cell Phone Usage While Driving: Handy or Hazardous?
  • Conclusion
  • References

The development of bluetooth, handsfree and wireless technologies evolving over recent years has been perceived as significantly increasing safety on the roads. However, contrary to popular belief, fatality and injury rates involving car crashes related to cell phone usage remain very common even with these advancements. As distracted driving continues to escalate with the undying presence of smartphones in society, companies are working feverishly to develop apps which are designed to prohibit select phone behaviors. The future of driving is unable to fully escape involving some cell phone usage or presence, however, the search for a safer way to do so is a possibility. Today there exist a highly debated topic and deeply analysed question: whether hands-free technologies will help to low a level of distracted drivers. This essay explores mentioned topic with the help of various arguments. 

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Effects of Multitasking on Driving Performance: Cognitive and Visual Distractions

The cause of distracted drivers is one that is larger than a visual and physical handicap but rather one that restricts cognitive capabilities as well. In addition, the effects of multitasking such as any kind of phone usage while driving will inevitably lead to effects on a driver's ability to perform at their highest level. In an experiment conducted in Accident Analysis and Prevention Vol 81 in Aug 2015, experimenters studied the safety of drivers while using various secondary tasks while driving. 40 participants including 29 females and 11 males that were all within the ages of 20 to 52 years coming from the JiLin University area. In order to be part of the experiment, some of the criteria included holding a drivers license for at least 2 years, having strong mental and physical health, being absent from medications which could potentially take away from deduct driving performance as well as having a certain annual mileage. Experimenters used the Smart Eye 6.0 system to track the eye movements of drivers throughout the stimulation. With there being high risk involved in conducting an experiment as such with the usage of real vehicles on real roads, experimenters chose to use a driving simulator. The experiment involved both auditory and visual tasks such as tuning the radio, changing the song, navigation adjustments and calling/receiving a phone call. This experiment was composed of two separate sessions. There is a preliminary training session in which participants engage in operating the desired tasks while driving using the stimulator. In the second session, considered as the “test session,” participants now familiar with the desired tasks were to perform them once again. What was discovered from this study was the effect of visual stimuli distracting drivers in contrast with auditory. The taxing of both kinds of activities on the brain cause large effects on a drivers visual range, causing it to become more narrow. This proves that even hands free or Bluetooth phone calls lead to negative effects on a driver’s performance. However, experimenters determined that visual tasks were found to have larger impacts on safety while driving than cognitive tasks. Another factor that influences a driver’s performance include a driver’s past experience with driving. While any secondary task involved higher risk, drivers who were highly experienced were able to maintain good driving safety even in the presence of distractions, which is in direct contrast to inexperienced drivers who were not able to perform as well. Regardless of the risk or driver’s experience, evidence of distracted driving was still present. Therefore, the use of cell phones should be completely banned in order to prevent any level of distraction while on the road.

Hands-Free Cell Phone Usage While Driving: Handy or Hazardous?

On the other hand, hands-free technologies should be allowed because there are apps developed today that prevent drivers from using certain capabilities of their phone when the car is in motion, therefore minimizing if not completely diminishing any risk.In addition, as technology continues to evolve, the early stages of these hands-free systems are still in place. As further attention is applied to this area of research, more benefits of using technology in the car than risks may be present. Today, some phones are automatically set up with systems which prevent phone usage when the phone detects that a car is in motion. Not only that, there are additional apps available in the app store today which are free for download and lock users out of most functions of the phone while driving. In a study involving 312 participants, each participant was grouped into a separate age range whether that be from 18-24, 25-29 or 60+ years. One of the first parts of the experiment involved an online questionnaire that was concerned with participants’ preferences on driving safety apps in addition to self-reported typical phone use during drives. The questionnaire went on to ask about participants’ previous knowledge and use of safety apps. The experiment took into consideration which personality characteristics would encourage the likelihood of downloading such apps and the willingness to prevent distracted driving. What was found from this data was that drivers who are more likely to use their phones while driving are also more likely to download apps that would keep them from using most applications on their phone. This signifies that the risk of distracted driving often coincides with the drivers’ own fears of the risk itself and desire to keep themselves from danger. As long as drivers are aware that certain dangers exist, their self awareness allows for large possibilities to occur while driving that could positively influence their performance. With the knowledge of how to correctly and efficiently work apps involving google maps, music and more significantly, hands-free phone, drivers will be able to drive more content. The sad truth is that drivers will most likely only continue to talk on the phone while driving in this world that is furthering its need for constant communication more and more everyday. By keeping this freedom legal, scientists will continue to research ways to find more high tech systems in cars in which can discover safer options for hands-free talking options. The benefits far outway the negatives when a driver is allowed to legally have a way to complete their needs and desires while on the road in a safe manner with the right systems.


Overall, the true risk of cell phone use via Bluetooth or hands-free is a relatively new topic within the realm of research. Despite many new experiments being conducted, the known outcome of cognitive correspondence to hands-free or hands off technology is far from being understood. In addition, the accelerated advancements in technology, including cell phones themselves, leave experimenters often unable to keep up. While the verdict may be out on the safety of hands free technology use today, scientists across the globe are working diligently to ensure that an answer is found.


  • Jin, L., Xian, H., Niu, Q., & Bie, J. (2015). Research on safety evaluation model for in-vehicle secondary task driving. Accident Analysis and Prevention, 81, 243–250.
  • Justin M. Owens, Shane B. McLaughlin, Jeremy Sudweeks, Driver performance while text messaging using handheld and in-vehicle systems, Accident Analysis & Prevention, Volume 43, Issue 3,2011,Pages 939-947,ISSN 0001-4575.
  • Oscar Oviedo-Trespalacios, Amy Williamson, Mark King, User preferences and design recommendations for voluntary smartphone applications to prevent distracted driving, Transportation Research Part F: Traffic Psychology and Behaviour, Volume 64, 2019, Pages 47-57, ISSN 1369-8478.

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