back to article Hands-free kits make drivers even more dangerous

Another study coming out of the University of Utah Applied Cognition Lab has concluded that driving while talking on the phone is a really bad idea, even if using hand-free kit. The study, published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology (PDF), concludes that driving while talking on the phone is significantly worse than …


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  1. Jon

    Who were they talking to on the phone

    The article states that people dominated the phone conversation, but were they talking to a driving researcher, a boring sod with no social skills so the driver had to dominate. Or perhaps a psycologist, who just sits their listening anyway.

  2. Fluffykins Silver badge

    a more passive roll in the conversation

    Is this after the accident then, when the car has rolled?

    Oh: role


  3. Simon

    No, really?

    As someone who rides a motorbike to work it really annoys me to see people using a phone when they should be driving.

    There is someone even more dangerous for me personally with hands free, if they are holding a phone up to their ear then at least I know they are not paying attention to what is going on around them and I need to keep away from them.

    A mobile phone to the ear means "This guy is an idiot and doesnt care about your personal safety, keep away"

    With hands-free its more difficult to tell if they are "Away with the fairies" as a friend used to put it. I wont be getting the usual easy warning sign, so I have to make sure I spot the other signs like them wondering across the road, not keeping up with other traffic.

    If I had it my way anyone caught using a phone should be made to WALK to the nearest police station where they should then be made to rip up their driving license in front of a police officer.

    Anyone who thinks I'm wrong has never had a near miss with one of these idiots while on a motorbike.

  4. John Dawson

    Looking at a TV camera while driving

    So, if talking on a mobile phone is dangerous, what about TV presenters who drive a car while talking to a TV camera mounted on the passenger window, often *looking at* the camera for several seconds at a time! Last week there was a (BBC) presenter doing this while driving along a narrow country lane; I was extremely glad not to have been riding a horse or a bicycle just in front of him. Speaking to, and in particular looking at a camera while driving must surely count as dangerous driving. Why, therefore, is it encouraged by directors and producers in the name of "immediacy"?

  5. JakeyC

    Passive roll

    Filled with submissive ham salad perhaps?

    OK, that's lunch.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    so where is KITT

    Ahh what happened to bringing KITT alive from knight rider, if we all had a KITT in our car it would answer our calls and speak for us eh

    But on a serious note I find all these studies even these speeding studies pointless.

    No point in telling us what is dangerous what is not you the manufacturers law passers need to come to some form of term to provide this safety for us

    How about cars that have speaker phone systems setup as a standard whcih would be compatible with all phones

    Speeding - well how about making cars talk to computerised beacons on the roads which define the maximum limit a car can go

    Ahh but both have a flaw number 1's flaw is that it impacts the car manufacturers and Gov can not meddle with big business.

    Number 2 the speeding well frankly where are they going to make up for all that lost revenue ?

    Its not about speeding (speed limits from 70 years ago ) its about making money

    and yes you can have all these fast cars and gadget but if we see you with it your knicked and ahh the fine dont forget that most important part.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    When having a row with 'er in doors

    in the car and I am a passenger generally sends us on a white knuckle ride of tailgaiting and agressive overtaking manouvers. I feel safer if she is on the bloody phone!

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not according to my tests

    I ran some tests on a simulator and found it made little difference unless people were driving at racing speeds. It seems to be about the ability to put driving first and talking second, so just not answering if you need to navigate a junction, for example. I didn't really see a diference in talking to people in the car, but having fighting kids in the back did make a big difference :-)

  9. Sampler

    Control Group

    What about those driving alone for comparison?

    Or did they not fit what they wanted to say and were also removed :D

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Driving while being an idiot

    otherwise known as Driving without Due Care and Attention - far from legal!

  11. Magani

    No <excrement>, Sherlock

    "Another study coming out of the University of Utah Applied Cognition Lab has concluded that driving while talking on the phone is a really bad idea, even if using hand-free kit."

    And in other news:

    * Ursus arctos soils arborially dense areas

    * Pontifex Maximus embraces the one true church

    * etc, etc

    Even in the empty wastelands of the Greater Antipodes, this hasn't been news for ages. Maybe glorious downtown Salt Lake City is a bit behind in getting news on the downsides of chatting on mobile / cell phones while commanding horeseless carriages?

    Now all we have to do is to get PC Plod to actually start taking action against those who drive with one hand permanently attached to their ear, seemingly talking to themselves...

    What's that, Skip? Speed cameras can't pick that up? I thought they were supposed to make roads safer.

    Penguin because they don't need to text and drive.

  12. Spockter Doc

    Phones are not the only fruit

    Where do CB radios fit into all this (may I be so bold as to venture... good buddy)?

    Surely they don't even have a hands free option & those buggers are bearing down on you with more wheels & tons that you can wave a stick at.

  13. M

    Hmmpf!.... that report meant that it's also damn dangerous to talk to the passenger, well if they suggest that it dangerous to chat with hand free device, same difference!

    What a crap research.....Bah Humbugs!

    (Drive off without hand on steering wheel whilst signing to a Deaf passenger.....)

  14. D@v3

    Re: Simon

    I have to agree with you on this, as a cyclist, i have on more than one occasion feared for my life, at the hands of these muppets who still think (despite the laws {here in the UK at least}) that is ok for them to drive around with their 'phone wedged between their head 'n' sholder while trying to negotiate some of the nastier roundabouts/junctions in my area.

    Unfortunately, i now have to drive to work, and much as the article says :

    "Meanwhile, the far more dangerous pursuit of driving while being an idiot unfortunately remains legal to this day."

    Just this morning i saw someone driving towards me, taking advantage of the fairly steady flow of traffic, to (2 handedly) brush their hair!!

    Telling us these things are dangerous is no good, those of us who would heed such warnings know this to be the case already, there fore, something needs to be done about these FOOLS!!!

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters


    "With hands-free its more difficult to tell if they are "Away with the fairies""

    Simple solution... assume all drivers are.

    Particularly BMW drivers

    And Mondeo drivers

    And Escort drivers

    And... well, you get the idea.

    There's also that thumping noise coming from the boot that'll give you a clue.

    And the fog lights that are on despite it being a perfectly clear day.

    And the under-car neons.

    And the spoiler on a car that never goes fast enough for it to make a difference.

    Not to mention the ones with a night-sun shining on them from the police helicopter!

  16. Jeetje
    Thumb Down

    Automatic transition (sic!) vs manual gearbox

    One glaring imperfection in the US scientist study is the setup of the driving simulator (page 3 of the PDF).

    Most drivers in Europe (UK included ^^) still have a manual gearbox in their car, so it only stands to reason a European scientist will see a BIG difference between hands-free cell phone use vs using a handheld phone. With the lazy bums... drivers in the US never needing to learn how to operate a stick shift, it's no wonder their researchers can hardly find a difference between handheld and hands-free phone use!

  17. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle


    Typical motorbike whiner - the most selfish drivers on the roads today are those on their two-wheeled penis-replacements.

  18. John Hughes
    Thumb Down

    Who wrote the headline?

    The headline: :"Hands-free kits make drivers even more dangerous"

    The last paragraph of the article: "Driving while talking on the phone is clearly dangerous, and one mitigates the risk by using hands-free equipmen"

    Ah. Hands-free kits make drivers even more dangerous and one mitigates the risk by using hands-free equipment.


  19. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Hands-free kits - more or less dangerous

    The title is "Hands-free kits make drivers even more dangerous" but the author closes with "Driving while talking on the phone is clearly dangerous, and one mitigates the risk by using hands-free equipment and keeping calls to a minimum."

    Which is it? Misleading title - bullshit story.

  20. David Hendy

    @ no, really?

    there'd be less hazards on the road if motorcyclists weren't darting between traffic and overtaking stationary traffic at T junctions. Having my safe breaking distance suddenly cut in half when a bike jumps in between me and the car in front bugs the hell out of me.

  21. Andrew


    Aren't those driving while talking on the phone merely a subset of those driving while being an idiot?

    And doesn't the sentence " mitigates the risk by using hands-free equipment and keeping calls to a minimum" contradict the entire point of the article, since the whole point is that one can NOT mitigate the risk by using a hands-free kit?

  22. Seán


    "Typical motorbike whiner - the most selfish drivers on the roads today are those on their two-wheeled penis-replacements."

    Please feel free to make your feelings known to any representative of the motorcycling fraternity. One of our helpful representatives will address your concerns immediately and guarantee you a good nights sleep.

  23. Martin

    @AC - Motorbike whiner?

    If you have an accident in a car, the car tends to get bent.

    If you have an accident on a motorbike, the rider tends to get bent.

    The upshot of this is, despite your stupid assertion, most motorbike riders are the most defensive and sensible drivers on the road. Those that aren't tend not to make old bones.

  24. druck

    Brain capacity?

    Do people really have such little brain capacity that when using hands free kit which allows them to keep both hands on the steering wheel and look straight ahead, they can't talk and drive at the same time?

    It really surprises me that this is claimed to be worse than having a conversation with someone in the car, where it is a natural human reaction to keep turning to look at the person, to see their facial expressions while talking, thus not paying full attention to the road.

  25. Bounty


    "This would seem to indicate they have already reached their conclusions before they start."

    Isn't that just the "hypothesis" part of the scientific method?

  26. Henry Wertz Gold badge

    yes they do have such little brain capacity

    "Do people really have such little brain capacity that when using hands free kit which allows them to keep both hands on the steering wheel and look straight ahead, they can't talk and drive at the same time?"

    Yes. People are that stupid. They'll *look* at the speaker of the handsfree kit rather than the road... not have the common sense to just shut up for a moment while they're crossing busy intersections/merging into traffic/etc. Get cheap hands-free kit so they have to screw around with the phone to dial etc. *while driving*, and so on. I can't comment on the drifting across lanes, the drivers here in Iowa City do that anyway... 8-( I'll go weeks with no trouble, then have to honk 5 times in a 10 minute drive to avoid different people deciding it's fine to drift into the side of my car (no wind or anything to particularly explain it.)

  27. Anonymous Coward

    Why are phone calls more important than life?

    I don't understand this one. I have a hands free set. It is used for no more than acknowledgements - "Yes, I am on the way" or "I'll call you back in five minutes". Usually I'll just ignore the call, and phone them back once I am at my destination.

    Why do phone calls HAVE to be made immediately? It is not that hard to find a legal place to stop the car and then talk. It may add five minutes to your journey - and if adding five minutes to your journey is a problem, then you left too late.

    Need to talk? Then park the car. Easy.

    (Ah - sorry - that requires "Common Sense"... something that people seem to have less of nowadays...)

    Mobile phones are just the least of it... add in fiddling with GPS systems... or that berk driving with an iPod in the ears.... An idiot test for car driving should be compulsory.

  28. Stephen Bungay

    Cellphone handsfree debate...

    Using the hands-free kit while driving is, in my experience, not at all dangerous. The number one priority must always be driving the vehicle. Driving with earphones listening to music prevents you from hearing such things as a warning horn-blast, or perhaps the siren of the emergency vehicle coming up behind you. This then would be the visual equivalent of driving while wearing welders goggles instead of sunglasses.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton


    "It really surprises me that this is claimed to be worse than having a conversation with someone in the car"

    Not me. When talking to an invisible friend we have to imagine a lot more of the context. Also, there's fewer cues (wringing of hands, hanging on to the door... the little things) to help put focus back on the outside world if the situation starts going pearshaped. Hence, a phone conversation means fewer cycles for processing the Real World(TM). And with the average processing power of a contemporary driver ("Idiot Inside" is the usual brand I meet) that doesn't really leave a lot.

    Paris, because.. well, the "walking and chewing gum" thing.

  30. Chris

    texting while driving apparently becoming an even bigger problem, especially among teenagers, who aren't very skilled behind the wheel in the first place.

    When I first read that Virginia was considering passing a law banning it, I thought "Surely no one would be stupid enough to text while driving in the first place." But I was wrong. The whole point of text messages (and email) is that it doesn't have to be in real-time. You can send me a message when you want, and I can read it and answer it at my leisure.

  31. Daniel

    Good drivers make good passengers

    "It really surprises me that this is claimed to be worse than having a conversation with someone in the car"

    What you, and so many others also miss, is that the person in the car is usually someone who can adjust their conversation for driving conditions, while the person on the other end of a phone conversation can't - they have no idea that you've just been cut off, are about to miss your turn, etc. In turn, I've noticed myself that it is much harder to have a conversation with someone in the car who is not themselves a driver, with young children being the hardest of all - the less connection the passenger has to the driving experience, the less likely they are to know when to shut up, point to an exit, or even scream in terror. :)


  32. Gavan Fantom

    If you ban phones, what will the idiots do instead?

    There are plenty of other things to find to distract idiots while driving. Like changing the music, tapping their feet to the boat on the accelerator pedal, putting on make-up, shouting at other drivers, masturbating, you name it.

    What I would like to see is a proper scientific study done to see if some people are better able to put driving first, and if that's a skill that can be learnt or if it's a fixed personality trait.

    Of course, that's not headline material.

  33. Oldfogey


    UK studies carried out before the ban on hand-held mobiles clearly demonstrated that hands-free was barely any better than hand held.

    The fundamental problem seemed to be the transfer of one's attention away from the environment of the car to that of the person at the other end of the link. In other words, people create an image of the person they are talking to, where they are, and the topic of conversation. This distracts their attentiopn from the local environment - the road and other users.

    This does not apply to another passenger in the car, perhaps because they already are in the common environment.

    Unfortunately the Government, under pressure from the mobile industry, caved in and only banned hand-held.

    CB, like police and taxi radios are permitted, even though hand held. There is an excemption for the "press to transmit" sort of radio, where you say "over" to pass control of the link to the other end.

    (PS never say "over and out". When you say over you hand over control of the link, and so are no longer able to terminate it. Just say Out. I know they do it all the time on the films. That's because the writers are ignorant)

  34. Alex Rose


    'PS never say "over and out"' Surely on CB it's "10-10"?

  35. Andy Worth


    "The upshot of this is, despite your stupid assertion, most motorbike riders are the most defensive and sensible drivers on the road."

    This may be true for 9 out of 10 motorbike riders. However, the other 1 in 10 just happen to be among the biggest idiots on the road and give the remaining riders a bad name. As you suggest, it is much more dangerous to the biker than the car driver when they drive dangerously, thus making the "idiot bikers" perhaps the biggest idiots around.

    Unfortunately people see these small proportion of bikers and tar every biker with the same brush. A sad fact but that's just the way it works.

    Believe it or not I've seen a cyclist using a mobile phone while riding their bike down a busy road one-handed. Considering how vulnerable you are as a cyclist, riding one-handed next to traffic, weaving around a bit because they don't have full control, must be just about the most dangerous thing you can do on the road next to a good game of tiddlywinks on the M1.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    The more I read the more convinced I become that I'm the only one on this planet capable of talking and driving at the same time. How you buggers ever got permission to use the road I don't know.

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Passengers make it safer?

    Not if the driver is one of those idiots that has to look at the passenger when they are talking to them

  38. Steve B

    A simulator is NOT REAL

    If you get on a simulator you can go over niagara falls, in real life the danger element kicks in and you behave differently.

  39. Stevie Silver badge


    Motorola used to make a great little flip phone about five years ago, that could be "modifieed" for in-car hands-free use by plugging in a small extension speaker and clipping the phone to the sun visor. Phone rang, I flipped open the phone and spoke. Eyes never left the road. Conversation over, flipped the lid shut and cut the connection. About as distracting as changing gear.

    Now I have a camera, MP3 player, movie capture and Azathoth-alone knows what else. What I don't have is the capacity for the extension speaker, the visor clip or the "flip to answer call" option.

    Gotta love progress.

    How about a study showing how dangerous it is to have an in-dash video display with a GUI for the stereo? I've had two idiots drive onto my lawn at speed because they were refining their ultimate in-car sonic experience and that required them taking their eyes completely off the road (though one of them left large pieces of his SUV on the road it has to be said). If these center-dash screens are safe I'm a chinaman.

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm not ashamed to admit...

    that holding a conversation (especially if it gets techie and requires more thought) in a car, just to a passenger sitting next to me, can have a noticeably negative influence on my driving. Fortunately I mostly drive alone, and when I do have a passenger I avoid 'deeper' conversations. I have a PhD (so it's not as if I'm lacking in brain-power) although I am a relatively new driver (less than 5000miles).

    A clued-up passenger can pause the conversation in response to the road/traffic conditions which they also observe, and will understand the driver breaking off attention from the chat; someone on the other end of a phone does not have this context. When I'm on the phone (never when driving) then I do use more imagination to visualise the other person - and thus am less aware of what is going on around me. It's common sense.

    I know and admit that I cannot multitask. Judging by the well-recognised symptoms of mobile phone driving (25-year old driving like an 85 year old, weaving lanes, too slow, poor judgement...) this is widespread. Why the reluctance to admit it?

    Very few phone-conversations can be urgent enough to warrant endangering other road users, particularly cyclists, motorcyclists, and pedestrians - who are especially vulnerable. Mobile-phone driving, whether hands-free or not, is a foolhardy act of selfish disregard for the safety and even life of your fellow citizens on the road.

  41. Bill
    Paris Hilton

    I haven't found this to be true at all...

    As a matter of fact, I've found it to be just the opposite of what the article states.

    For example: When I have my wife in the car, and she's talking to me, I find it much more distracting because she insist on trying to point things out to me. Or, she'll try to tell me how to drive - annoying as f**k really.

    When I'm using my hands-free, I just cruise along listening to music, or chatting on the phone with little distraction. Also, if I do need to make a call while driving, I just use activate the phone's voice recognition for that, with one simple push of a button on my lapel, and keep my eyes well on the road. It's easy as...

    Granted, I'm very safe and experienced, with about 30 years of driving under my belt. I don't tail-gate, weave in and out like a lunatic, or speed by much. I've only had two accidents that could be considered my fault, and no one was ever injured in them. And, none of those accidents were caused by cell phone use, because they both occurred before I even owned one!

    Paris, well, because the little slapper likes to drink and drive!

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