Is Driving with a Hands-Free Cell Phone Really Safer Than Holding a Cell Phone?

If there are degrees of danger, driving while reaching for your cell phone

In a word: No.

If there are degrees of danger, driving while reaching for your cell phone or dialing your phone while driving or texting on your cell phone is very dangerous. People die every day when their eyes are diverted off the road and end up in some hideous crash. And as we know in Florida you can get a citation while driving and texting.

But a common belief is, if I’m in my car on my cell phone but talking through a blue-tooth system or hands-free speaker, I’m much less distracted. The phone is nowhere near me and I’m able to look straight out through the windshield, keep both hands on my steering wheel and just speak out loud, as if the person on the other end of the call were sitting right next to me.

Sounds safer, right? It’s not, not really.

There are many cases, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) where drivers on a hands-free device just blow through a red light or read end another car despite this freedom from cell phone juggling. The reason is called “cognitive distraction”.

You may be looking out of your windshield at things ahead of you, but are you fully attentive when you’re engaged in a conversation with someone and your driving is, more or less, on autopilot? Sometimes we are looking at things we just don’t see until it’s too late – this inattentive blindness is what causes this, so called, cognitive distraction. In a phrase, it’s taking your mind off the road.

In fact, a full thirty (30!) studies of traffic crashes show that hands-free devices offer no safety benefit when driving. So, while driving with a blue-tooth device isn’t illegal in Florida, it is still best practice to take that call and get off that call as soon as your business is done. No one will fault you if you ask to call them back when you’re at your destination. It sounds trite, but nothing is more important for you and fellow drivers than to get to where you’re going and not worry about firming up the details of meeting up for a curry and a craft beer later tonight.

Image credit: jes2ufoto / 123RF Stock Photo

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