According to recent research and publications by the National Safety Council, hands-free devices provide a false sense of security to drivers. “In order to stay safe, you need your eyes on the road, your hands on the wheel, and your mind on driving.” Distractions are a top factor in fatal car crashes, and these distractions include the use of hands-free equipment.
Multiple states have encouraged the use of hands-free devices by banning the actual use of cell phones while driving. This misconception on such a level and misled the general U.S. population on the safety of hands-free driving.
Hands-free devices include technology such as earpieces, a dashboard system, or speakerphone. Although some individuals believe that using these devices is safer than not, thousands of people have died in crashes involving cell phones- including the use of hands-free devices.
Up to 94% of all car crashes are caused by driver error, while only 6% account for mechanical issues or environmental circumstances. According to George Sink P.A., distracted driving is attributed to approximately 100 fatalities per day.
Although hands-free devices do free up the driver’s hands, it still occupies their mind. The activity in the area of the brain that processes moving images decreases by up to 1/3 when listening or talking on a phone. In addition, drivers looking out the windshield can miss seeing up to 50% of what’s around them when talking on any kind of a cell phone.
Surprisingly, new studies show that using voice-to-text is actually more distracting than typing texts by hand. Phones are still fairly inaccurate at recording speech exactly as it is spoken, meaning that most text messages are full of errors. This tempts drivers to glance at their phone to check and see if the message has recorded and typed correctly, distracting them from their driving. Fixing the message requires even more attention from the road.
In 2015, the popular TV show “Mythbusters” tested the myth that hands-free driving was safer. Their results support the research by the National Safety Council:
- In a simulation involving 30 drivers, only two managed to pass a driving test while talking on a cell phone.
- Of 15 drivers using handsets, 1 passed, 5 failed by driving the wrong way, and 9 failed by crashing.
- Of 15 drivers talking hands-free, 1 passed, 6 failed by driving the wrong way, and 8 failed by crashing.
The evidence said it all- it is no safer to use a hands-free device while driving than it is to use a handset.
According to the National Safety Council, talking to passengers is different than talking on a cell phone. Passengers are able to spot and point out driving hazards and recognize when traffic is challenging and stop talking. In addition, they are an additional set of eyes. Research shows that for adult drivers, talking to passengers is not as distracting as talking on a cell phone.