We've all read the studies and heard the public service announcements declaring that driving while talking on a cell phone is dangerous. But what about hands-free cell phone use, using an earpiece, speakerphone, or dashboard system? Driving with both hands on the steering wheel is safer than driving with one hand while the other holds a cell phone, right? Well, not entirely. Contrary to the belief of many drivers across the country that hands-free devices are safer to use while driving than handheld devices, the National Safety Council (NSC) disagrees.
According to the NSC, hands-free devices create a false sense of security for drivers and don't actually make them safer. Any type of conversation over a cell phone, hands-free or not, can be distracting. The NSC advises drivers to ditch their phones altogether while driving. Drivers should keep their eyes on the road at all times, with little to no distractions, and only focus on driving.
The vast majority of car accidents are the result of driver error, such as distracted driving. The problem with thinking hands-free cell phone use is safer is it doesn't take into consideration that even hands-free driving requires drivers to multitask. While our brains can hop between tasks seamlessly, they're incapable of juggling two tasks at the same time. According to the NSC, when drivers multitask, it negatively affects their ability to process moving images. Additionally, while talking on their hands-free cell phones and looking out the windshield, drivers can actually miss an alarming amount of what's going on around them.
Many studies have been conducted over the years that analyze the risks associated with driving while talking on a mobile device, including hands-free devices. The studies have come to the same conclusions as the NSC, that hands-free cell phone use is just as distracting as using a regular cell phone while driving. A recent study from England found that hands-free cell phone use resulted in drivers failing to respond to road hazards quickly, primarily because distracted drivers tend to only look at the stretch of road directly in front of them.
The only kind of safe phone while driving is one that's being left alone.