Yet another study
has found that using cell phones while driving can distract drivers, regardless
of whether they’re using a hands-free device.
The human brain
can’t simultaneously give full attention to both auditory and visual tasks,
according to research by Steven Yantis, a professor in the Department of
Psychological and Brain Sciences at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. He
released his study Tuesday, June 21.
Yantis tested adults
age 19 to 35 by having them watch images on a computer display while listening
to voices on headphones. The subjects’ brains were then analyzed using a
technique known as functional magnetic resonance imaging to test activity in
the different nodes of the brain.
“Our research helps
explain why talking on a cell phone can impair driving performance, even when
the driver is using a hands-free device,” Yantis said in a press release. “When
attention is deployed to one modality – say, in this case, talking on the cell
phone – it necessarily extracts a cost on another modality – in this case, the
visual task of driving.
In other words, if
you’re on the phone, you’re brain can’t devote as much attention to driving.
Yantis said he hopes
this research can have real-life applications in other areas of concentration
and brain function, such as airline cockpits and the study and treatment of
attention deficit and hyperactivity disorders.
The report comes
just a few weeks after a similar study by the National Highway Traffic Safety
Administration, which used a driving simulator to find the differences between
phone and hands-free operation. The study found that the added dialing time and
technical confusions of voice dialing offset any benefits the headsets may give