Hands-free systems can’t eradicate the distracted driving problem

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, distracted driving was responsible for 10 percent of all the fatal car accidents in the U.S. in 2011. What many people don't realize is that texting and driving isn't the only form of distraction. Distracted driving involves any activity that takes a driver's hands off the wheel, their eyes off the road or their sole focus away from driving.

The dangers of distracted driving

However, one of the most dangerous forms of distracted driving is using a cellphone. A 2008 AAA report took into account dozens of studies revolving around cellphone risk and driving and discovered that using a cellphone while operating a vehicle nearly quadruples a driver's risk of crashing. Since approximately 660,000 drivers on the road at any given moment are using their cell phone at the same time, says distraction.gov, this form of distracted driving is a real safety concern for drivers everywhere.

To control the numbers of drivers in Minnesota that engage in this risky driving activity, the state's Office of Traffic Safety reports that:

  • It is illegal for drivers to send, read or type out text messages when they're driving, sitting in traffic or stopped at a stoplight.
  • Bus drivers are completely banned from any type of cellphone use.
  • Drivers under the age of 18 are not allowed to use a cellphone, whether or not it is a hands-free device.
  • Distracted drivers can be ticketed for reckless driving.

Because the laws in the state for drivers over the age of 18 do not make it illegal for a driver to use a hands-free device, many believe that these devices are a safe way to use their phone in the car.

New research indicates hands-free systems aren't the cure

However, according to a new study conducted by the University of Utah, using a hands-free device is just as dangerous, if not more, for drivers. The study found that when a driver engages in complex multi-tasking, like using the hands-free system in their car, they experience a reduction in reaction time and brain function, both of which lead to a higher crash risk.

Even though these hands-free systems have been proven to be dangerous, automakers still promote them as a safer alternative to using a cellphone while driving. Many manufacturers are not willing to stop adding these systems into their vehicles because of profit. For example, according to Visiongain, an industry research group, Toyota's infotainment systems were expected to yield approximately $32 billion in sales in 2013.

Distracted driving, in whatever form, be it talking on a hands-free device, composing a text message or eating, is dangerous to drivers on the road. If you were injured in an accident caused by a distracted driver, contact an attorney that can help you understand your legal rights as a victim.