Hands-free calling: not as safe as you might think | Bart Durham Injury Law

Hands-free calling: not as safe as you might think

Distracted driving has become a growing concern on U.S. roads in recent years. Any activity that takes your eyes off the road, your hands off the wheel or your attention away from driving is considered a form of distracted driving. Eating a hamburger or turning around to reprimand your kids in the back seat are some types of distracted driving. However, in this day and age, one of the most prevalent forms of distracted driving involves cell phone use.

Our phones are now smarter than ever, and they’re with us wherever we go. You can call, text or check your notifications on social media anytime. This opportunity for unlimited connectivity provides real temptation when driving.

In the wake of increased driver safety concerns, there have been technological innovations designed to make certain cell phone activities safer for drivers. One such example is the ability to talk on your phone hands-free.

Many people have lauded the invention of hands-free calling technology, likening it to talking with a fellow passenger in the car. At first glance, hands-free calling may seem safer than its alternative—because it allows the driver to keep both hands on the wheel while talking on the phone. However, a recent study shows that this form of calling still leads to distracted driving, because it takes the driver’s attention away from the wheel—more so than when talking to another passenger in the vehicle.

The missing part of the picture

Let’s say you and your sister and driving to brunch together. She’s in the passenger seat, chatting about her upcoming promotion. Suddenly, a reckless driver swerves in front of you, narrowly missing your front bumper. You both see the impending crash and immediately respond to avoid it—you by slamming on the brakes, and your sister by screaming or gasping. Because you’re both in sync with what’s happening in your surroundings, you’re both able to respond to dangerous situations on the road.

However, let’s take this same scenario, only this time, you’re talking to your sister using hands-free cell phone technology. Because your sister doesn’t see the weaving driver on the road, she unwittingly talks right through the life-threatening incident—providing added distraction for you, and making you more likely to crash.

How your brain works

Your brain is an extraordinarily complex organ. However, it also has its shortcomings. It’s impossible for your brain to focus on two things at once. Therefore, when a driver is swerving and your sister is talking at the same time, these two stimuli are simultaneously competing for your limited attention.

It may seem like your brain would instinctively choose to focus on the activity that’s putting you in harm’s way, but it doesn’t. It tries—ineffectively—to focus on both. In fact, talking hands-free in the car for just 50 minutes a month makes you five times more likely to end up in a crash.

An unnecessary phone call can severely compromise your safety on the road. Waiting until you reach your destination before making a phone call can be a life-saving decision.

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