Hands-free devices and distracted driving

Written on behalf of Abramson Smith Waldsmith LLP

In California and other areas of the country, hands-free devices have become more prevalent in passenger vehicles for the purpose of decreasing accidents caused by holding the phone, looking up contacts and dialing or texting. However, recent studies show that while using these devices may decrease the incidents of some accidents, they still pose a risk to drivers on the road.

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that driving while using tools such as hands-free cell phones, speech to text systems and even listening to audio tapes causes cognitive distractions. As opposed to visual and manual distractions, cognitive ones can cause a variety of issues, such as:

  • Longer time to react to issues and take action to prevent accidents
  • Decreased brain activity needed to stay safe
  • Tunnel vision, with decreased ability to scan vicinity
  • Lack of accuracy  

These distractions can result in missing stop lights, other vehicles and pedestrians, and drivers take longer to stop in reaction to barriers. In fact, the LA Times reports that, depending on the type of hands-free system, distraction times can vary from 15 to 27 seconds. Based on the results of studies done in laboratories, driving stimulators and instrumented vehicles, both the phone and vehicle industries continue to work on the development of systems and equipment that will result in lower distraction for drivers. Because drivers tend to have a false sense of safety when interacting with hands-free technologies, the auto industry is working on communicating with drivers that these systems are not fool-proof and that caution should be practiced while using the devices.



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