Study: Distracted driving more dangerous than thought

FRESNO, Calif.

The new AAA study says when you use "hands free technology," even though your hands are on the wheel and your eyes on the road you are still mentally distracted.

A research team from the University of Utah took a closer look at what happens to our brain function when drivers attempt to do multiple things at one time.The team used a special configured skull cap to follow brain activity of individuals, a detection device to record driver's reaction time to green and red lights, and also cameras to track their eye and head movements.

They found as mental workload and distractions increase, reaction time slows, and brain function is compromised. They said drivers scan the road less and miss visual cues, which could result in drivers not seeing things right in front of them like stop signs and pedestrians.

By 2018, the number of new vehicles that come with "info-tainment systems," that's the voice-activated in-car technologies, will increase five-times. When researchers looked at the different types of distracted driving from listening to the radio to talking on your cell, the most distracted activity was responding to in-vehicle, voice-activated email features.

AAA said because of these features, there is a "looming public safety crisis ahead." The group also said it's time to consider limiting these new and potentially dangerous mental distractions in the car. They also want people to realize that hands-free doesn't means risk-free.

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