If you have used your cellphone while behind the wheel, you are not alone. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, more than 660,000 people use their cellphone while behind the wheel at any given time of the day. As a result, thousands of people are killed and injured in distracted driving car accidents every year. As a way to minimize this risk of accidents, injury and death, you may have replaced your hand-held cellphone with a hands-free variety. You may be surprised to learn, however, that even by doing so, you are still at risk of becoming involved in car accident due to cognitive distraction.

AAA released a study that measured the amount of cognitive distraction caused by drivers who engaged in several different tasks, including listening to the radio, listening to a book-on-tape, talking to a passenger in the vehicle, using a hand-held and hands-free cellphone and using voice-activated technology to compose an email. As drivers engaged in these tasks, researchers measured their heart rate, brain activity, eye movement and response time. The results showed that when drivers used a hands-free cellphone, they were only slightly less distracted than they were when using a hand-held cellphone.

Although hands-free cellphones reduce both manual and visual distractions, they are still a significant source of cognitive distraction. Cognitive distraction occurs when your mind is not fully focused on the road but is involved in another task at the same time. The mind bounces back and forth between tasks, leaving blank moments where your brain is not concentrating on the road at all.

This information is intended to educate and should not be taken as legal advice.