Hands-Free Talking and Texting Is Killing Us
80 percent of Americans think using a hands-free device while driving is safe. It isn't
Remember the big push to get “hands free” cell phone technology that let you talk while driving with both hands on the wheel? You may have felt a sense of relief as you took your first calls hands-free while spinning down the road.
It turns out that it’s not that much safer than talking with the phone to your ear. More than one in four of all car crashes involve drivers talking on cell phones — including the hands-free variety. Small wonder that “Calls kill: Hands free is not risk free” is the new mantra of the National Safety Council (NSC), which has created an infographic (below) to alert the public to this danger.
The NSC acknowledges how confused drivers must feel, especially since most safe driving laws have focused on hand-held devices. Surveys show that 80 percent of Americans think that using a hands-free device for car conversations is safe. But more than 30 studies show it’s hazardous because your brain is still distracted by the conversation, according to the NSC.
In a recent case, 15-year-old Ethan Wong of Cupertino, California, was biking to his high school when he was struck and killed by a truck driver who was using a hands-free device. Although talking on a cell phone is illegal under California law, using a hands-free device is not.
Drivers using cell phones or hands-free technology, in fact, are four times more likely to crash. And texting hands-free is hazardous, too. In fact, using voice technology to send a text message is even more distracting than texting on a cell phone while driving.
“While many drivers honestly believe they are making the safe choice by using a hands-free device, it’s just not true,” writes the NSC. “Your brain remains distracted by the conversation.”
Peter Kissinger, president and CEO of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, has told reporters that talking on hands-free devices can result in “inattention blindness” while driving, in which people absorbed in conversation may run red lights without even noticing them.
A recent report prepared for the foundation by researchers at the University of Utah found voice-activated email was a “level three” distraction for drivers — the highest level of risk. As distractions increase, drivers are less likely to scan the road, are more likely to miss visual cues (such as pedestrians and stop signs) and have slower reaction times, the study found.
Although the NSC, AAA and other safety groups naturally focus on the distracted driver, there’s an overlooked group of people who could also make a difference: the ones on the other end of the line. How many times have you called a friend who takes your call on his hands-free device while driving? For their safety (and that of everyone around them), consider these five words: It’s okay, it can wait.
Provided by The National Safety Council