Risky Driving: Hands-Free Devices Don’t Make You Safer on the Road

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A new AAA study of distracted driving confirms that using hands-free devices to make phone calls or send text messages while driving isn’t safe at all.

In the most comprehensive study of its kind, AAA found that using these devices contributes to drivers’ mental distraction and inattention to the roadway, causing them to have slowed reaction time and to miss things like traffic signs, other vehicles and pedestrians on the roadway.

According to coverage in USA Today, this form of distracted driving is as dangerous as texting while driving, a behavior we’ve warned you about before: 

“The increasingly popular voice-activated, in-car technologies that allow drivers to text, talk on the phone or even use Facebook while driving still allow for dangerous mental distraction, according to a study.

In the most comprehensive study of its kind to look at drivers’ mental distraction, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that as mental workload and distractions increase, reaction time slows, brain function is compromised, and drivers scan the road less and miss visual clues, researchers say. This could potentially result in drivers being unable to see items right in front of them, such as stop signs or pedestrians.”

If you use Siri on the iPhone, a bluetooth headset or a built-in device in your car to make phone calls, send text messages or even check and post to Facebook, please reconsider.

Engaging in other activities while driving can have deadly consequences.

AAA distracted driving risks

Illustration via AAA

  • The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that 3,331 people were killed in crashes involving distracted drivers in 2011, and an estimated 387,000 more were injured.
  • 10 percent of fatal crashes and 17 percent of injury crashes were reported as distraction-affected crashes.
  • 11 Percent of all drivers 15-19 years old involved in fatalcrashes werereported as “distracted” at the time of the crash; this age group has the largest proportion of drivers who were distracted. 
  • Drivers text messaging behind the wheel are eight times as likely to be in a crash or near crash as drivers who are not texting.
  • When conversing on mobile devices, either hand-held or hands-free, drivers increase their risk of a crash two to four times 

The best solution is to turn off your phone while you’re in the car — or put it well out of reach. Those calls and messages can wait until you’re not behind the wheel.



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