Hands-Free Technology Still Can Be Dangerous

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than nine people are killed and more than 1,153 people injured every day due to distracted driving. The CDC defines distracted driving as “driving while doing another activity that takes Hands-free deviceyour attention away from driving.” Two of the main causes of distracted driving are talking on a cell phone and texting.

Efforts to decrease these risks include the implementation of hands-free technology. This technology includes smartphones and systems built into cars that allow drivers to use voice commands to make a call, send a message and have a message read aloud. Two recent studies, however, question the effectiveness of these devices. The studies claim that hands-free technology does, in fact, still contribute to distracted driving and even poses some other unforeseen danger.

Some States Legislate Cell Phone Use Rules

As cell phone use has grown, associated driving risks have also grown. In response, many states have legislated bans on cell phone use while driving. Drivers in Illinois are banned from talking on a handheld cell phone and texting while driving. In Missouri, novice drivers are prohibited from texting while operating a vehicle, but no restrictions exist regarding talking by any group or texting by more experienced drivers.

In total, talking on a cell phone is banned in 14 states and the District of Columbia, while texting is prohibited in 37 states and the District of Columbia.

Utah Studies Examine Effectiveness of Hands-Free Technology

As a result of the large scale rules against cell phone use while driving, hands-free technology has become more readily available. Nearly all new cars come with the option of a hands-free package and smartphones typically offer voice-command features.

These options have been marketed as safer alternatives than manually operating a cell phone. However, two University of Utah studies claim these systems do not decrease distraction. The studies examined in-car systems and the use of smartphones, and the results state, in part:

  • Drivers are still distracted. Researchers measured distraction by flashing lights toward the driver and having the driver use a thumb-mounted sensor to report when they saw the flashes. They found drivers were distracted when using hands-free technology.
  • The systems are prone to error. This can lead to driver frustration as they attempt to get the system to follow a command, which in turn can distract a driver further.
  • Practice with voice commands does not improve results. The more a driver uses the technology does not correlate with better results or decreased distraction.
  • Even after disconnecting, a driver remains distracted. Perhaps the most startling finding, researchers say that drivers are still distracted for as long as 27 seconds after disconnecting from hands-free technology. At 25 mph, a car will cover the length of three football fields in 27 seconds.

Though there are many sources of distraction on the road, cell phone use continues to play a significant role in distracted driving crashes. Consumers should use caution when using tools, like hands-free technology, that claim to decrease distraction, as they can still take attention away from the road and may even lull drivers into a false sense of security while driving.

If you or someone you love has suffered injuries in a car accident involving a distracted driver, you may be entitled to make a claim. Contact the experienced legal team at the Tapella & Eberspacher Law Firm today at (217) 394-5885 for a free, no-obligation consultation.