Distracted Driving Campaign Targets 'Big Fat Myth' of Hands-Free Safety


Safety advocates want motorists to pay attention to the dangers of distracted driving. As April is designated Distracted Driving Awareness Month, the century-old Itasca, Ill.-based National Safety Council has released a new poll showing that 80 percent of drivers across the U.S. believe hands-free devices are safer than using a handheld phone while behind the wheel. The group believes this not to be the case. Meanwhile, among motorists reporting using hands-free devices while driving, 70 percent said they do so for safety reasons.

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"While many drivers honestly believe they are making the safe choice by using a hands-free device, it's just not true," said David Teater, the NSC's senior director of transportation initiatives. "The problem is the brain does not truly multitask. Just like you can't read a book and talk on the phone, you can't safely operate a vehicle and talk on the phone."

Confusing matters, NSC says, many states have laws prohibiting the use of handheld cellphones while driving, though no state has yet banned the use of hands-free devices. Likewise, automakers continue to incorporate hands-free communication technologies into their vehicles. NSC fears this sends a dangerous mixed message to drivers that the availability of and lack of restrictions on hands-free devices means they're safe; certain statistics show the opposite, linking thousands of deaths each year as a result of cellphone use while driving.

To help spread the word on distracted driving, NSC has compiled these facts to show the dangers: About 100 people die in car crashes every day; 90 percent of car crashes are caused by driver error; and 26 percent of all car crashes involve mobile-phone use, including hands-free devices, which at any moment are being used by 9 percent of drivers.

With regard to what NSC calls the "big fat myth" of multitasking, activity in the area of the brain that processes moving images decreases by as much as one-third when listening to talking on a phone, and drivers looking out the windshield miss as much as 50 percent of what's around them due to a narrowing of their field of view, NSC reported. Concerning emerging technologies, NSC reports that new studies show using voice-to-text is actually more distracting than typing texts by hand.

Underscoring those eye-opening stats, the U.S. government's official distracted-driving website, Distraction.gov, calls the practice "a dangerous epidemic" that in 2012 alone resulted in 3,328 driving deaths. The problem is of particular concern among teens and young people — 71 percent have composed and sent text messages while driving, and 78 percent of whom have read messages, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

To take the NSC's pledge not to engage in distracted driving, click here.

NSC image

By Matt Schmitz | April 10, 2014 | Comments (5)



I think the problem is the wording. Hands-free isn't SAFER than handheld; it's just less UNSAFE!


I don't like how they are trying to imply that it is incorrect to say that hands-free devices are safer. They are. Using a device is going to mentally distract you, no matter what you do, but at least a hands-free device removes the physical distraction of not having both hands available to grab the steering wheel. Is it safe? No. Is it safer? Yes.


How about:

1. adjusting the climate control?

2. tuning the radio?

3. talking with passengers? (especially this one, since it typically occurs for as long or longer than cellphone conversations)

Isn't all of this distracted driving, too?


This crap is getting so old. Of course talking hands-free is a little bit distracting. So is about twenty other things we do when driving. They establish a limit for DUI but anything less is fine even though everyone knows that even one drink can affect your driving a little bit. That's the point. We establish limits all the time but don't preclude the activity entirely. What's next? No kids in the car because they are a distraction. No eating in a car, no listening to the radio and god forgive if you should sing along!

I have never seen one statistic where "they say" the contributing factor was distracted driving caused by a cell phone where they break it down by texting, hand-held or hands-free. I would bet that texting is about 70%, hand-held is about 25% and hands-free would be 5% or less. I would bet that if a cell phone was on at the time of the accident that it gets the blame whether or not it had anything to do with it. Plus, that 5% would probably be no more than that caused by all the other distractions like kids, talking to a passenger, singing with or adjusting the radio, adjusting a GPS, eating, shaving, combing hair or anything else that takes our attention from 100% focus for a second of two.

Until they break this down with solid proof, we should all just say BS to these so called "studies".


what about drinking scalding coffee in the car?

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