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Distracted Driving: Hands-Free Doesn’t Mean Risk-Free

June 7, 2016

Are Hands-Free Devices Really Safe?

Most Americans believe that hands-free devices are a relatively safe way to multitask and communicate while driving, even as the evidence mounts showing otherwise. According to a 2014 report from the National Safety Council (NSC), 80 percent of Americans wrongly believe that hands-free devices are safer than communicating with a handheld phone while driving—despite more than 30 studies’ worth of data to show that this isn’t true.

An October 2015 study on hands-free devices shows that it can take as long as 27 seconds for a driver to regain full alertness after using a voice-activated entertainment or communication system from behind the wheel, as reported by the Washington Post. In that amount of time, a car going only 25 miles per hour will travel about the length of three football fields.

The study, which was conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, also found that even the best-designed and least distracting hands-free systems can leave drivers distracted for up to 15 seconds, and they asserted that the distractions created by device use could limit drivers’ ability to spot hazards on the road and make necessary adjustments to avoid a car accident.

The authors of the study also said that nearly a third of drivers in Washington, D.C., where the study was conducted, reported using a hands-free device on a regular basis.

NSC Senior Director of Transportation Initiatives David Teater said in 2014 that most consumers mistakenly believe hands-free devices are safe thanks to the recent rise of laws restricting only the use of handheld devices while driving combined with a lack of corresponding public concern about hands-free devices and the increased promotion of hands-free systems by auto manufacturers.

“The problem is the brain does not truly multitask,” Teater said. “Just like you can’t read a book and talk on the phone, you can’t safely operate a vehicle and talk on the phone. [But] with some state laws focusing on handheld bans and carmakers putting hands-free technology in vehicles, no wonder people are confused.”

What Kinds of Technology Create Distractions?

Distracted driving is no joke—about 100 people every day die in car crashes, and about 26 percent of all crashes involve cell phone use, including hands-free devices, according to the NCS. However, not all of the sophisticated systems in new cars are contributing to the problem. The NCS distinguishes technology that creates unnecessary distractions from useful innovations that actually help drivers stay safe.

Technology that helps drivers, according to the NSC, includes:

  • Crash avoidance systems
  • Stability control
  • GPS systems

Meanwhile, the “hands-free” device types that the NSC says create a risk of distracted driving include:

  • Voice-activated dashboard “infotainment” systems
  • Bluetooth and wired earpieces for cellular phones
  • Cell phones set to speakerphone

The evidence is clear: Hands-free devices are far from risk-free and should only be used sparingly for urgent communications. Remember that your number one job when behind the wheel is getting to your destination safely—everything else is just a distraction.

Call the Law Office of William D. Cook if You’ve Been Injured

If you or someone you know has been involved in a car crash and is seeking legal representation, please contact the Law Office of William D. Cook at (907) 694-2000. You can also complete the brief online form on our website and we will get in touch shortly to discuss the particulars of your case. We offer free consultations and in most instances we handle cases on a contingent fee basis, which means we advance expenses and that you will not pay anything unless we are able to resolve your case successfully.

References

Hands-free is not risk-free. (n.d.). National Safety Council. Retrieved from http://www.nsc.org/learn/NSC-Initiatives/Pages/distracted-driving-hands-free-is-not-risk-free-infographic.aspx

National Safety Council. (2014, April 1). National Safety Council poll: 8 in 10 drivers mistakenly believe hands-free cell phones are safer. Retrieved from http://www.nsc.org/NewsDocuments/2014-Press-Release-Archive/4-1-2014-DDAM-opinion-poll-results.pdf

Siddiqui, F. (2015, October 22). Study: Hands-free devices distract drivers for 27 seconds after use. The Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/trafficandcommuting/study-hands-free-devices-distract-drivers-for-27seconds-after-use/2015/10/21/8fc67032-781b-11e5-a958-d889faf561dc_story.html

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