End Distracted Driving Presentation at Fairview JHS: Hands-free isn’t harm-free!

by John McKiggan


As part of my volunteer efforts with End Distracted Driving (EndDD.org) I have been speaking to students at high schools and junior high schools throughout Metro. Yesterday I had the pleasure of talking with 150 grade nine students at Fairview Junior High School. I was impressed with the interest shown by the students and the questions they asked.

EndDD.org’s Mission Statement can be found on their website:

“To preserve life and promote safety on a large scale through advocacy, education, and action. It is our hope that we can prevent families and friends from suffering the loss of a loved one because of distracted driving.”

Talking while driving a distraction


During the EndDD presentation we show images of the brain taken with an fMRI machine. (You can see the images in this picture from another presentation I did for the students at Eric Graves JHS). The first image shows the areas of the brain that are engaged when concentrating on driving. The next image shows how activity in that area decreases when driving and talking to someone at the same time. It is a really visual way to show exactly how much talking on a phone distracts drivers.

Hands free cell phones safer?

One of the students at FJHS knew that Nova Scotia has a “hands free” cell phone law. Drivers are only allowed to talk on cell phones through speakers or Bluetooth headsets. The student asked if that was safer than using a hand held phone.

Great question! What do you think?

Talking is talking

Some of the students thought that talking to someone on speakerphone must be safer, because you don’t have to take your hands off the wheel.

Some thought that talking on a cell phone was dangerous even if you had your hands on the wheel.

Hands-free isn’t harm-free!

The fact is that the students that thought that talking on a hands free phone was still dangerous were right.

A recent study out of a Toronto hospital has shown that the part of the brain used to do such tasks as making safe left-turns is preoccupied during a cellphone conversation, even if the call is hands-free.

CBC news reported that researchers at the hospital installed a high-end driving simulator inside an fMRI machine. They then scanned driver’s brains while they spoke on hands-free cell phones and operated vehicles in the simulated environment.

The study, published in the Academic Journal – Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, explains why statistics have been showing that drivers using hands-free phones have been almost as likely to be involved in collisions as those using hand-held phones. The director of the neuroscience research program at St. Michael’s Hospital, Tom A. Schweizer, is quoted as saying:

“Hands free isn’t brains-free. You’re still distracting the individual. You’re still processing information, which could take resources away from the primary task of driving.”

The researchers hoped that their study, and further research, could lead to safer roads. They suggested that the research might lead to the installation of systems in later vehicles that would deactivate all communications if the user tries to operate them while driving.

More Information

If you want more information on distracted driving you can check out my past posts here.

If you are a teacher or on your child’s school SAC or PTG committee and would like to have the End Distracted Driving presentation at your school, contact me so we can set it up.

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