June 18, 2013 8:10 AM, EDT

Hands-Free Devices Can Be Dangerously Distracting, AAA Report Shows

According to a new study by AAA, hands-free devices can be dangerously distracting to drivers and can result in drivers not seeing items right in front of them.

Research found that as mental workload and distractions increase, reaction time slows and drivers scan the road less, possibly resulting in them not seeing things such as stop signs and pedestrians, according to AAA.

“It’s time to consider limiting new and potentially dangerous mental  distractions built into cars, particularly with the common public misperception that hands-free means risk-free,” said AAA CEO Robert Darbelnet.

In April, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued guidelines to encourage automakers to limit the potential for driver distractions from electronic systems built into passenger cars, including those that connect to cellphones and the Internet.

The voluntary standards ask manufacturers to block access to Web browsing and social media unless a vehicle is parked and to incorporate technology in their vehicles that would limit small, distracting tasks to two seconds and more time-intensive tasks to 12 seconds.