Cell phones and driving just don’t seem to mix well, despite our efforts to make it safer. While hands-free devices may help to a certain extent, it does not solve the problem. In fact, it may do the opposite by making people feel complacent. Before I dive into this, here are some facts about cell phone use that you might find interesting. I took most of these facts from the NHTSA and the CDC:
- Distractions from cell phones cause about 2,600 deaths per year and 330,000 injuries in the United States.
- In a recent study, drivers talking on cell phones took 18 percent longer to react to an emergency braking situation.
- Hands free devices have not been found to increase safety by any significant margin.
- About 40% of people polled by the NHTSA said they talk on the cell phone while driving “regularly” or “fairly often.”
- Nearly 10% of people polled said they text and drive “regularly” or “fairly often.”
- 75% of U.S. drivers aged 18 to 29 said they have used their cell phone while driving in the past 30 days.
Clearly, most people don’t see cell phones and driving as a dangerous habit. It’s scary to think of all the people out there who are yapping away or texting instead of focusing on driving.
Hands Free Devices Are Harmful
Contrary to popular belief, hands-free devices do not make a substantial difference when using a cell phone and driving at the same time. Actually, it probably makes people more dangerous! A lot of people would let a phone call go to voicemail or make a call after they are done driving, but hey, why not use that fancy built-in hands-free system in your nice new car that you paid lots of money for!? Or why not use that awesome little Bluetooth device?
I’ll tell you why – it doesn’t help! People are under the impression that it does help and to an extent, they are correct. Using a hands-free device has a slight benefit safety wise. Unfortunately, a slight benefit doesn’t go nearly far enough. What hands-free devices do well is make people feel safer when they really are not.
Why Hands Free Devices Don’t Work
I’m going to say something that a lot of people aren’t going to want to hear. Talking on cell phones and driving at the same time will never be safe. I take that back, when we have automated self-driving cars, it will be safe. But until then, nothing will work. No Bluetooth will work and no other hands-free device will work. Why? Because you are still multi-tasking. Driving a motor vehicle is incredibly dangerous. It’s the #1 cause of accidental death for every age group and is likely the most dangerous task we perform each day of our life. Since we do it so often, people forget about the dangers and don’t take it seriously.
Splitting your brain power between the task of driving while also talking on a cell phone is never going to be as safe as simply driving. If you’re a safe driver, you are processing a ton of information about your environment and surroundings at any given time. Talking on a cell phone will decrease your ability to do this, making you a danger to yourself and everyone who is forced to share the road with you.
Isn’t Hands-Free Like Talking To A Passenger?
First of all, having passengers in the car is one of the #1 driving distractions out there! That’s why states have enacted graduated drivers license programs for new drivers. Even if it was just as “safe” as talking to a passenger, it’s still more dangerous than just focusing on driving. But it’s not as “safe” because there are huge differences.
When you have a passenger, they are aware of your surroundings at all times. They know when you’re making that tough left turn at a busy intersection. They know when an emergency vehicle is approaching. They see everything you see and so they will stop talking or at the very least, change the pitch or speed of their voice. In other words, they react to everything you’re seeing and doing. Talking on a cell phone makes for an entirely different ball game! The person you’re talking to can’t see anything you are experiencing and will continue to speak normally no matter what situation you’re in. This has an enormous psychological impact that no hands-free device will be able to account for.
I’m sorry to say, cell phones and driving don’t mix now, they never have mixed well, and they certainly don’t mix well for a very long time. Put the phone away and just drive!