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Is hands-free cell phone use safe?

Apr 25 2014

Wayne Texeira  Marketing Director, CFMP, AINS, AIS, API

Is using a hands-free cell phone while driving safe? More and more vehicles now have dashboard info systems that allow you to make hands-free calls. Massachusetts and other states have passed laws banning texting while driving as well as all cell phone use by drivers under 18. It’s legal, however, for adults to use cell phones while driving, so that must be safe. And, if you’re using a hands-free cell phone, you’re being safer than someone who is using a handheld device…right? Not really.

It’s easy to understand why people might think that being hands-free (earpiece, speakerphone or dashboard system) is safer than using a hand held cell phone because you can keep both hands on the wheel. Yet, many studies have shown that hands-free devices are actually no safer than handheld because your brain is still distracted.

We live in a world where people take great pride in multitasking. It’s something that individuals and businesses have put a value on. However, the benefits of most multitasking are actually a myth. (Psychology Today Blog: Technology: Myth of Multitasking.)

  To perform two tasks at the same time, one task has to be almost automatic and require no focus. It’s why you can listen to instrumental music and read a book. However, when listening to music with lyrics, it’s much harder to comprehend and retain what you’re reading because both activities involve language. This type of multitasking makes you far less effective in both activities.

When it comes to driving, you may be able to drive and talk on the phone because driving or talking seems automatic, but both require focus. Without your full attention to the task of driving, you are a less effective driver, which reduces safety. When talking on the phone, have you ever found that you can’t remember driving the stretch of road you’ve just travelled? Have you realized you’ve missed a turn or made another error? Even if you may not be aware of such faux pas on the road, you probably aren’t doing as well as you might think.

Many people perceive the risks of talking on phone as a low risk activity, yet 26% of car crashes involve cell phone use according to the National Safety Council. You can reduce the chances of causing an accident and improve your ability to avoid an accident by choosing to focus driving and not talking on the phone. 

As a full disclosure, yes…I do sometimes talk on the phone while driving, but I also realize that I’m a better driver when not on the phone. I make an effort to limit the number and length of calls while driving. I avoid talking when in heavy traffic or when driving conditions aren’t ideal. I also try to make calls before I start driving and to pull over when a call becomes involved.

Accidents can and do happen even though it’s common to have that feeling of “It won’t happen to me.” I just know that if an accident happens to me, I don’t want using a cell phone to be a contributing factor. I’m sure you feel the same way.  So, the next time we’re on the phone in the car, let’s all consider hanging up for better safety.


 

Is using a hands-free cell phone while driving safe? More and more vehicles now have dashboard info systems that allow you to make hands-free calls. Massachusetts and other states have passed laws banning texting while driving as well as all cell phone use by drivers under 18. It’s legal, however, for adults to use cell phones while driving, so that must be safe. And, if you’re using a hands-free cell phone, you’re being safer than someone who is using a handheld device…right? Not really.

Comments
Total: 3 Comment(s)
DAVID KAUPPI
  NO, AS MENTIONED YOU ARE DISTRACTED and as the call may become heated EVEN MORE SO!
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Diane
  What's the difference between talking on a hands-free device and talking to a passenger seated next to you? I would think the hands-free device would be less distracting than talking to a person seated next to you. Would you agree??
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MurphyInsurance
MurphyInsurance  Both activities are distracting. Some say that at least when talking to passengers, there is at least another set of eyes also watching the road, too. While some situations may be more distracting than others, the issue is that they are still distracting our attention away from our the task of driving. Hands-free use of a cell phone may be an improvement over holding a phone in your hand while driving, but it's still distracted. Phones get a lot of the attention when it comes to discussing distractions, but Eating and drinking, Talking to passengers, Grooming, Reading (including maps), Using a navigation system, and Adjusting a radio, CD player, or MP3 player are all distractions. We're all human, but at least realizing that activities can distract us helps us to pay extra attention.
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