The Harsh Reality Behind Hands-Free Devices & Texting While Driving
Generally speaking there are several myths associated with the use of cell phones and driving. Specifically, many people feel that if they use a hands-free device, they will be safer. Moreover, there are others who think that talking on a cell phone is safer than texting, influencing them to call a person back rather than respond to their text. The reality is that both of these actions cause thousands of accidents each year. In other words, they still lead to serious and sometimes fatal crashes, which makes it important to examine why this is happening. Consider the following questions:
Do Hands Free Devices Makes Our Roadways Safer?
In an effort to ensure their own safety and/or to comply with driving related cell phone restrictions, many people purchase hands-free devices, such as Bluetooth. However, does the decision make the operation of a cell phone while driving much safer? The answer unfortunately, appears to be no. A recent study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that hands-free technology that makes it easier to talk and text on a cell phone causes dangerous mental distractions, which may explain why hands-free cell phone restrictions have not generally reduced the number of cell phone-related car accidents. According to the results of the study, talking or texting impairs mental focus on driving tasks, which includes but is not limited to the following:
• Less consistent scanning of the road
• Poorer response to visual cues of potential collisions
• Slower reaction and braking times
• Compromised and slower brain function
The AAA Foundation study confirms earlier studies that suggest limiting drivers to hands-free use of a cell phone does not make the roadways safer. Research conducted by the Highway Loss Data Institute, for example, compared accident rates in states that had instituted hands-free laws to states without such a restriction. The states that imposed a hands-free requirement did not reduce their accident rates nor did the restrictions result in fewer accidents than in states with no such restriction. The subsequent AAA Foundation findings essentially explain this anomaly; the results suggests that it may be the mental distraction associated with carrying on a cell phone conversation more than the physical manipulation of the phone that constitutes the biggest factor in cell phone-related accidents.
Does Texting Constitute a Greater Risk of Causing a Car Accident than Talking on a Cell Phone?
While talking on a phone and texting are both very risky behaviors, it appears that text messaging leads to more accidents. A behind the wheel test conducted by Car and Driver magazine vividly illustrated why text and driving is so dangerous that many states like Georgia have completely banned the practice. The study measured brake response time between drivers who were sober and not engaged in text messaging activity and compared this response time to driver who were alcohol impaired, as well as drivers who were engaged in text messaging. The results are both enlightening and disturbing:
• Braking time for sober non-texting driver: 0.54 seconds
• Braking time for alcohol impaired driver: 4 additional feet
• Braking time for driver reading a text: 36 additional feet
• Braking time for driver sending a text: 70 additional feet
Many people who would never consider driving while impaired by alcohol text while driving because the activity does not elicit the same sense of moral outrage. Nonetheless, the risk posed to other vehicle occupants, motorcyclists, bicyclists and pedestrians appears to be at least as serious when drivers operate a motor vehicle while distracted by text messaging.
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