Around 80 percent of drivers in the United States think that it is safe to talk on the phone in their car when they use a hands-free phone. People now use hands-free or voice control technologies not just for telephone calls but also for texting and manipulating other electronic devices in their car.
Unfortunately, multiple studies suggest that the safety of hands-free devices is a myth.
As distracted driving accident attorneys in Chicago know, drivers who are using hands-free devices are still forced to take their attention off the road. These drivers are a risk to themselves when their brains are focused on the phone call or text. They are also a risk to innocent victims who could be killed in a collision caused by a driver who isn’t focused on the road.
Hands-Free Phones Present Serious Risks
Cars.com reported on the myth of hands-free phone safety, indicating that around 70 percent of motorists who use hands-free systems while driving do so for safety reasons. These people are trying to be responsible and the Senior Director of the National Safety Council (NSC) was quoted as saying that “Many drivers honestly believe they are making the safe choice.” The reality is, they aren’t.
Compounding the problem is the fact that many states have imposed bans against distracted driving that prohibit the use of handheld cell phones but that say hands-free systems are OK. USA Today reports that 12 states have total bans on handheld devices while driving and 43 states have texting bans. No states have forbidden the use of hands-free electronics, which reinforces the impression that they are safe.
Unfortunately, even if you aren’t using your hands to talk or text, your brain is still forced to switch focus from the road to your conversation or the text. Your brain cannot multitask effectively, and the NSC says that the brain is thus forced to toggle quickly between two tasks (driving and talking to the electronics).
When your brain is on the voice-controlled device, the activity in the brain that processes moving images decreases by as much as a third. The result is that drivers can miss seeing as much as 50 percent of what is going on when looking out their windshield if they are on the phone at the same time.
The National Safety Council is trying to draw attention to the risk, publishing materials for drivers and motorists. These materials are part of Distracted Driving Awareness Month in April. The NSC report shows that:
- 100 people die each day in motor vehicle collisions.
- 90 percent of collisions are caused by driver error.
- 26 percent of collisions are caused by cell phone use (just five percent are from texting, the rest are from talking).
- At any moment, nine percent of drivers on the road are using hands-free devices.
Drivers need to understand that hands-free devices are just as bad as any other cell phone or electronic device. Most safety experts recommend a total ban of cell phone use behind the wheel and drivers who care about safety should make the voluntary commitment to refrain from phone use, including hands-free systems.