Is it Safe to Use a Hands-Free Device While Driving?

Breit Cantor Grana BucknerApril 30, 2020

While 80% of drivers in the U.S. think using a hands-free device while driving is safer than using a hand-held phone, studies have, unfortunately, indicated that this simply isn’t true. According to the National Safety Council, 24% of all call crashes involve cell phone conversations, hand-held and otherwise. In fact, some research even suggests that talking on the phone through a hands-free device is more dangerous than driving drunk!

Protect yourself and your loved ones and educate yourself with the most current research on distracted driving safety.

What is Considered a “Hands-Free Device?”

A hands-free device can be a Bluetooth earpiece, dashboard system installed in the vehicle itself, or a speakerphone feature on your phone. The National Safety Council’s research has shown that hands-free devices are dangerous because they are distracting. Distracted driving is one of the leading causes of car crashes in the United States, and goes beyond texting. Anything that distracts the eyes, hands, or mind from the task at hand is considered a distraction.

The Unknown Dangers of Hands-Free Devices

When listening or speaking on the phone, the brain’s ability to process moving images decreases by up to 1/3, and, even when the driver’s eyes are on the road, they overlook 50% of what is around them. Some may say talking on a hands-free device is the same as having a conversation with a passenger in the car, but the National Safety Council says this isn’t true, because passengers also watch the road and will usually warn drivers about dangers they may overlook. In fact, the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration also says talking on a cell phone is more dangerous than having a conversation with a passenger.

Here are a few of the most important statistics on distracted driving, cell phones, and using hands-free devices while driving:

  • 24% of car crashes involve cell phone conversations.
  • A person’s ability to process moving images decreases by up to 33% when talking on a phone.
  • Drivers talking on a cell phone can miss up to 50% of what’s around them.
  • More than 13% of distraction-affected crashes involving cell phone use are fatal. 2,841 people died in distraction-affected crashes in 2018 alone.
  • Over 250,000 distraction-affected car crashes result in personal injury every year.

The dangers involved in hands-free phone use while driving are significant and include death, property damage, and personal injury to the driver, their passengers, and those in other cars. For those who have been hurt in a car crash caused by distracted driving, a Virginia personal injury lawyer may be able to help improve the situation and secure your future.

Cell Phone Vs. Drunk Driving Mythbusters

The University of Utah held a benchmark study in 2006 to test adults who drive intoxicated, revealing they were less dangerous than those who held a phone conversation while driving. Additionally, that same study had more cell phone users crash than drunk drivers, and they found no difference between the performance of drivers who used hand-held phones or hands-free devices.

Many similar studies have produced comparable results, and researchers at Touro University, found the level of impairment between drunk drivers and hands-free cell phone users to be nearly equal. Even the popular scientists and TV hosts of the popular show MythBusters put the drunk driving vs. cell phone use theory to the test. In their experiment, the drunk driver did better on a driving course than the driver who spoke on the phone with a hands-free device.

Some speculate that people drive more dangerously when they are using a hands-free device because they are lulled into a false sense of security. Hands-free devices have been popularly advertised as safety measures to minimize the dangers of distracted driving and avoid hand-held cell phone use. Regardless of the ample research debunking this claim, many drivers remain unaware of the risk of hands-free use and companies continue to produce and advertise hands-free devices. The best cell phone safety while driving is not to use a cell phone when you’re behind the wheel.

Virginia’s Cell Phone Driving Laws

Like most states, Virginia has laws that regulate what drivers can do while on the road. However, Virginia’s driving laws are amended and updated fairly regularly, so it’s important to stay current on the changes. For example, regulators tried to adjust Virginia’s cell phone laws in 2018 and 2019, and are working on new changes in 2020 as well.

As of this writing, Virginia’s cell phone driving laws prohibit text-based activities while driving, including texting and emailing. More specifically, the state of Virginia prohibits:

  • Inputting multiple letters or text in a personal communication device while driving.
  • Reading emails or text messages while driving.

While it is still legal in Virginia to use a cell phone for verbal communication, that does not mean using hands-free devices while driving is safe.

Virginia’s Hands-Free Law

Currently, Virginia’s hands-free law only applies to work zones. Drivers are prohibited from using hand-held devices while driving in a work zone, such as an active construction location. However, many residents and legislators want to update Virginia’s cell phone driving laws to apply to a wider range of drivers.

Legislators tried to pass hands-free driving laws in both 2018 and 2019 that would affect drivers outside of work zones. Neither law passed, but there is another bill that is being considered in 2020. If passed, the bill would ban “handheld personal communication devices” including cell phones while driving. If passed, this new Virginia cell phone law, or Virginia’s first hands-free law applying to drivers outside of work zones, would likely go into effect in early 2021.

What to Do if Injured By A Distracted Driver

From all of us at Breit Cantor Grana Buckner, we encourage you not to use a cell phone, hands-free or otherwise, while driving any type of motor vehicle.

If you are in an auto accident with someone who was using a hand-held or hands-free cell phone device, we encourage you to contact our personal injury attorneys. A vehicle injury lawyer can help you get the justice you deserve and secure your future in the event of a serious injury. Our legal team is devoted to each and every one of our clients, and we ensure that each case gets the attention it deserves so you can move forward with your life.

To schedule a free consultation, contact Breit Cantor Grana Buckner today.


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