Use of hands-free devices dangerous while driving, study shows

Posted at 6:42 PM, Oct 07, 2014
and last updated 2014-10-08 09:39:46-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- It's now against the law in Utah to dial your phone while you're driving. Hands-free devices are supposed to be much safer -- but a new University of Utah study says otherwise.

The university’s study shows using hands-free technology to complete tasks like turning on the radio, making a call or posting to social media might not be as safe as you think.

“It’s almost as demanding in some cases as doing difficult mental math, a type of task no one would dream of doing, but this is the type of workload people are using when trying to dial a number,” said Joel Cooper, Research Assistant Professor at the University of Utah.

The study involved nearly 200 hundred people who used a simulator as well as six real cars to see how they responded to driving while trying hands-free tasks.

The study found many mistakes.

“We know that there are always errors you say something they correct it but eventually they get it right what we found of course but not surprisingly is those errors induce a lot of workload and frustration,” Cooper said.

This study also put Apple iPhone's Siri to the test.

“We wanted to know how Siri compared and the workload with interacting with Siri is much higher than anything we have seen,” Cooper said.

On a scale of 1 to 5 one being no distraction Siri received the worst rating of all devices tested at 4.14.

Experts say that just because your car can make calls doesn't mean it’s safe to do so.

“A distracted driver, even on a hands-free device is considered just as dangerous as a drunk driver, so that's something people may not be aware of but we have to keep in consideration,” said John Gleason, spokesman for the Utah Department of Transportation.