Hands-Free Cellphone Use While Driving Also Delays Reaction Times

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Jeff C. Rabin, O.D., M.S., Ph.D., F.A.A.O., Dipl. Vision Science
Professor and Assistant Dean for Graduate Studies, Research and Assessment
Chief, Visual Neurophysiology Service
University of the Incarnate Word Rosenberg School of Optometry
San Antonio, TX

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. Rabin: The use of hand-held cellphones during driving has been widely banned but the impact of hands-free communication on visual performance remained unclear. Therefore, we used a standard automobile Bluetooth device suspended above our visual display and determined that hands-free communication significantly delayed response time to detect low contrast black-white and color targets. Moreover, hands-free communication decreased sensitivity of “color-blind” subjects to detect targets corresponding to their color deficiency and all subjects showed a tendency for decreased sensitivity for detection of small, low contrast black-white targets.

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Dr. Rabin: Whereas our findings cannot be extended directly to driving, the results do indicate that hands-free communication can impair visual performance by increasing reaction time and decreasing visual sensitivity.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Rabin:  The finding that color deficient subjects showed decreased sensitivity for the color of their deficiency suggests that pre-existing conditions, such as decreased cognition due to senescence and related conditions and/or diseases, may make these individuals more susceptible to adverse effects of hands-free communication during critical task performance.

MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Dr. Rabin: Subsequent to our initial study, we determined that visual evoked potentials (VEPs), recorded from the back of the head at the level of primary visual cortex, do not show changes with hands-free communication. Hence the site of this impairment likely involves high cortical processing in cortical association areas which may be better identified with functional MRI and related approaches.

MedicalResearch.com: Thank you for your contribution to the MedicalResearch.com community.

Hands-Free Phone Calls Impair Visual Performance
Rabin, Jeff C. et al.
American Journal of Preventive Medicine , Volume 0 , Issue 0 ,
Published Online:June 14, 2016
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.amepre.2016.05.006

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Last Updated on June 20, 2016 by Marie Benz MD FAAD