Cagle Law Firm
Attorney Zane Cagle

Posted on February 24th, 2015,
by Zane Cagle

Is Hands-Free Really Risk Free?

Posted on February 24th, 2015 by Zane Cagle

distracted drivingIf you think using hands-free, voice activated systems to make a phone call, send a text or work your car’s entertainment system is safe, you should reconsider.  Recent studies and articles completed by AAA indicate that systems in the car increase the amount of distraction  a driver has to cope and essentially increases the chances of a motor vehicle accident.

AAA Study

Hands-Free is not risk free”, said Peter Kissinger, president and CEO of the AAA Foundation for Safety. “There’s a misunderstanding many people have that they are not increasing their chances of an accident just because they are using voice-activated systems when driving'”.

Illinois has had a ban on hand held phones or devices but safety advocates fear that “hands-free” may be sending the wrong message and making people think that hands-free is actually safe.

“People think hands-free is risk-free, but study after study shows that’s not the case,” AAA spokeswoman Beth Mosher said. This month AAA announced that 46 percent of drivers who use speech based systems to text or send emails don’t think those features are distracting, which Mosher called “disappointing”.

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety defines distracted driving as the “diversion of attention away from activities critical for safe driving……….”

Team of Daily Herald Reporters:

The team of reporters observed over 1,000 drivers in a metropolitan Illinois city using hand-held devices in spite of Illinois’ ban on hand-held usage while driving. In light of recent studies stating that the use of hands-free is not really safe, 1000 plus rush hour commuters using their hand-held phones in a variety of activities could explain everyday distracted driving accidents that occur in Illinois and Missouri.

Overwhelming Study Data Finds:

More than 465 studies over 40 years show that “You need your brain to drive and you need your brain to talk,” said Atchley. “If you try to do both at once, you increase the risk of being in a crash”.

The National Transportation Safety Board has called for a complete ban on hands-free devices while driving.  NTSB Board Member Walter Sumwalt said, “People don’t appreciate the impact cognitive distraction has on us. Laws coming out now that ban only hands-held devices send the wrong message”.

According to the NSC, distracted drivers suffer from “inattentive blindness”. Inattentive blindness is when drivers of hands-free devices are looking at the road, but “fail to see up to 50 percent of the information in their driving environment”

  • Distracted drivers tend to miss visual cues such as exits, red lights and stop lights
  • Driver reaction and response time become delayed as they are required to “attention switch”, causing a delay in driver’s braking reaction time
  • Driver reaction time with hands-free devices is slower than the reaction time of driver impaired at a .08 alcohol intoxication concentration (National Safety Council)

Current Ban

It is not likely Illinois lawmakers will ban hands-free devices in the near future as they just enacted the ban on hand-held devices while driving last year.

The general behaviors of distracted driving was the topic of  last Friday’s blog, “Driving Law in O’Fallon, Missouri Covers More Than Just Texting” .  O’Fallon, MO city councilmen tried to extend the definition of distracted driving beyond just texting and driving to include many distracted driving behaviors–all of which increase the likelihood of increasing your chances of being in a car crash. These bans take aim at increasing safety awareness and holding those individuals accountable who chose to be distracted while operating a vehicle and the result is a serious injury or fatality.

Legal Reality of Using Hands-Free

Officers generally ticket drivers when their hand-held electronic use has been involved in a motor vehicle accident or if the driver has been pulled over for some other driving infraction.  These city and state ordinances and laws passed to reduce distracted driving raise awareness regarding safety and assist in gathering evidence after a car crash.

So, what does this mean for you as a daily driver? Does it mean that you will never take a hands-free phone call?  Probably not, but if you are in a car crash and fault can be shown that you were engaged in something other than focused driving, this could become a liability issue for you in your personal injury claim. For safety purposes and legal purposes, you do not want to be engaged in anything that could be construed as “distracted driving”

In reality, that also includes hands-free phone use and being distracted by your console of infotainment.  If an action requires you to look away from the road, you should pull over.

If you have been injured in a car accident,  you will need legal representation. At The Cagle Law Firm, we represent injured victims of motor vehicle accidents. Call toll free 1-800-685-3302 or locally 314-276-1681 for a free consultation.