A new study that measured the physical impairment drivers experienced while using a mobile phone found that reaction time, accuracy and consistency of speed improved significantly when a headset was used with the phone. The study, commissioned by Plantronics, used a state-of-the-art driving simulator to compare the driving ability of subjects using a mobile phone under two conditions -- one holding a mobile phone, and the other using a headset, leaving their hands free.
The Plantronics study is one of the first of its kind to analyze physical impairment experienced while driving and using a mobile phone; to date most other studies have focused solely on the mental distraction of using a mobile phone while driving. The study was conducted by Design Science, an independent human factors research firm that has conducted other driving-related studies for a wide range of organizations including the Department of Transportation.
"The central question of our study was, 'For a person using a mobile phone, does driving improve if he or she uses a headset?' What the research showed is that, across all conditions, the answer is a resounding yes," said Stephen Wilcox, Ph.D., Principal of Design Science. "Driving with both hands on the wheel is the safest option for motorists who use mobile phones, and headsets are tools to enable that improvement."
The driving performance of 24 subjects in three major categories was measured: steering accuracy, braking reaction time and speed variability. Key initial findings of the research found:
* 71% of the test subjects steered more accurately when using a headset
* 100% of the test subjects had faster brake reaction times when using a headset
* 92% of the test subjects maintained a more consistent speed when using a headset
Plantronics also completed a national Omnibus survey earlier this year to measure people's attitudes regarding headsets and mobile phone use. The survey of 1,000 individuals revealed that 75% surveyed said they wished their friends and family would use a hands-free device while driving and talking on a mobile phone. In addition, 77% said they thought all motorists should use a hands- free device while driving and talking on their mobile phones.
Note: Plantronics introduced the first lightweight communications headset in 1962 and is a major provider of communications headsets.