Hands-Free Phone Use

Hands-Free Phone Use

With distracted driving becoming such a major issue in the last few years, much attention has shifted to the debate between the use of handheld and hands free mobile devices. From the surface, it would seem that handheld devices should be much more dangerous than hands free devices, with regards to how much of a distraction it can be. While those hands free devices certainly do reduce some of the overall risk that would come with a handheld device, it may not be as extensive as expected.

Perception

While many states in America currently have laws relating to cell phone use while driving, a good amount of them are strictly for handheld devices. What this does is create the image that hands free devices might provide a significantly lower amount of risk. Blue tooth and other hands free devices have grown heavily in the past few years because of this perception. While these devices do provide an upgrade to handheld devices and the risk that is involved with their use, it is important to remember that a distraction doesn’t just come from using our hands to control a device or even looking at a device for that matter.

Reality

While you can count on using a hands free device to be safer than a handheld device, neither should be used behind the wheel of a car. The reality is that the cognitive aspect of talking on a cell phone is likely the biggest distraction, meaning that how you’re conversing doesn’t mean as much as it has long been perceived to.

Much of this certainly depends on how the handheld device or hands free device is being used. Because handheld devices can be used for surfing the internet, sending text messages and taking advantage of other features, they are much more of a distraction for drivers. Even as much less of a distraction, multiple studies have proved the use of a hands free device to still be a risk behind the wheel.

Nearly a decade ago, a research study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that hands free devices can provide an equal distraction for drivers. A few years back, researchers at the University of Utah concluded that the major bulk of risk and distraction for drivers stemmed from the cognitive aspect of conversing on the phone and not so much the visual aspect of looking or dialing numbers. 

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