Hands-Free Devices are As Risky for Drivers as Handheld Devices

Macon auto accident attorneyCell phone-happy drivers might believe they will be safer with a hands-free phone, but that is not always the case. It will go a long way on any road you are traveling to do these three simple things:

  • Keep your eyes on the road.
  • Keep your hands on the wheel.
  • Keep on your mind on driving.

But, as most of us know, simple things aren’t so simple - and driver distraction is an epidemic nationwide, not just in Macon.

If your New Year’s Resolution was not to use your hand-held cell phone, only communicating when driving with your hands-free phone, that’s not good enough.

No Benefits

The National Safety Council (NSC), a nongovernmental public service organization that promotes safety and health, issued a report last year titled “Understanding the Distracted Brain: Why Driving While Using Hands-free Cell Phones Is Risky Behavior.”  The report draws on 30 scientific research studies, all of which show that hands-free phones offer no significant safety benefits when driving.  The NSC report concludes, “The cognitive distraction from paying attention to conversation — from listening and responding to a disembodied voice — contributes to numerous driving impairments.”

Drivers, and often the companies they work for, may see the use of a phone while driving as vital multitasking. The NSC report rejects the notion of multitasking as a myth: “Human brains do not perform two tasks at the same time. Instead, the brain handles tasks sequentially, switching between one task and another. Brains can juggle tasks very rapidly, which leads us to erroneously believe we are doing two tasks at the same time.’’

A 2013 article in Time cited a 2010 study by French neuroscientists that supports the NSC statement, showing not only that the human brain wasn’t designed to multitask, but also that multitasking can actually have harmful effects on brain function.

More Mistakes

In simulation studies, Dr. David Strayer and his colleagues in the Department of Psychology at the University of Utah found that drivers talking on cell phones got into more accidents, ran more red lights and stop signs, braked later, and generally made more mistakes, whether they were holding the phone or using hands-free devices, according to a story in the Boston Globe by David Ropeik, a Harvard University instructor.

The University of Utah lab tested people doing a variety of distracting things while driving in a simulator. Rated in terms of distraction, this what the test found:

  • Just plain driving with no distractions – 1.00 (baseline)
  • Listening to the radio – 1.21
  • Listening to a book – 1.75
  • Talking with a passenger in the front seat – 2.33
  • Talking on a hand-held cell phone – 2.45
  • Talking on a hands-free cell phone – 2.27
  • Interacting with a speech recognition e-mail or text system – 3.06

According to Ropeik, who has also authored the book How Risky Is It, Really? Why our Fears Don’t Always Match the Facts, "Anyone using a hands-free device will think, 'I have done something to reduce my risk, to take control.' A feeling of control over risk makes it less scary. So people using hands-free devices will be just as distracted, but because they think they’re safer, many of them are likely to be less careful when driving and using a phone."

If you’ve been hurt and need legal help, contact Jon R. Hawk, Sr., LLC in Macon, Georgia.

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