June 25, 2014
Debunking Myths about Hands-Free Devices and Distracted Driving
By Jonathan Damashek
The National Safety Council is trying to correct the mistaken impression that hands-free devices are safe to use behind the wheel.
A public opinion poll sponsored by the organization found that 80 percent of drivers think, erroneously, that hands-free technology is safer to use while driving than hand-held devices. Of respondents who said they use hands-free devices, 70 percent said they do so for the sake of safety.
Yet numerous studies show hands-free communication devices are not safer, because they still distract a driver’s attention from the road. Distracted driving is a major contributor to car crashes across the nation as people become more attached to communication devices.
In a news release, David Teater, senior director of Transportation Initiatives with the National Safety Council, points out that the brain is not really capable of multi-tasking. Driving cannot be done safely while carrying on a phone conversation, he says.
He notes that people are naturally confused about safety because state laws are focused on handheld phone use by drivers and because auto manufacturers are installing hands-free technology in cars.
No state has banned the use of hands-free technology by all drivers. New York is one of 12 states along with the District of Columbia that has taken a stand against cellphone use by drivers. But laws in the state are a little contradictory.
All New York drivers are prohibited from using hand-held cellphones and texting. In New York City, taxi drivers and novice drivers also are restricted from using hands-free phones, according to DrivingLaws.org.
The National Safety Council hopes to put these myths to rest:
Myth: Because an infotainment system is built into my car, it is safe.
Fact: Technology such as crash avoidance systems and vehicle-to-vehicle communication can improve vehicle safety, but systems such as hands-free phone, speech-to-text and social media that distract the driver can be hazardous and shouldn’t be part of dashboard infotainment.
Myth: Because an infotainment system is built into a car dashboard, it’s safe to make voice-to-text messages while driving.
Fact: While infotainment systems are becoming more prevalent in new vehicles, they create driver distractions. Researchers have found voice texting can cause more distraction than typing because drivers have to look away from the road to check translated messages on a dashboard system to see if they’re correct.
Myth: Mechanical problems in cars such as bad brakes or tire blowouts cause most crashes.
Fact: Improper inflation and poorly maintained tires cause most vehicle malfunctions, but preventable driver error leads to 90 percent of crashes. Roughly 9 percent of drivers are on cellphones at any given moment during the day across the U.S. Drivers on cell phones are much more likely to be involved in a crash. They don’t see about half of the roadway environment, such as traffic directional signs, people on foot and bicyclists, making devastating car crashes more likely. All of that could be solved if they’d just hang up.