• Strong Law

Hands Free Devices: Are They Safe?

Updated: Oct 18

Multiple studies have shown the use of hands-free devices makes driving more dangerous. Hands-free technologies have been found to compromise the brain function, vision, and reaction times of drivers. The mental distractions caused remain long after using the devices.

Inattention Blindness

It is legal in Peoria and throughout Illinois for drivers aged 19 and above to use hands-free devices and Bluetooth technology. Hands-free devices can cause inattention blindness that can lead to car accidents, however.

Vision is one of the most important senses for safe driving. Despite drivers using hands-free technologies having their eyes on the road, they tend to look at objects but not see them. According to research, drivers using hands-free and handheld devices see only around 50% of the information in the driving environment. This is known as inattention blindness. Drivers may miss visual cues crucial to navigation and safety, such as:

  • Exits

  • Red lights

  • Stop signs

  • Navigational signage

  • Pedestrians

Distracting Conversations

Hands-free phone conversations do not eliminate or prevent cognitive distraction. Although drivers may have their hands on the steering wheel and eyes on the road, their attention is still partly on the conversation. Talking on a hands-free device is often equally risky as holding a phone to the ear.

Slower Reaction Times

Research has shown using hands-free technology significantly delays the response time of drivers. Slower reaction times lower the ability of drivers to take appropriate action when there are sudden road hazards.

In one study, drivers took nearly twice as long to react when texting using voice-to-text or manual methods than when they were not texting. Simulation studies have also found drivers talking on cellphones are guilty of late braking, make more mistakes, and get into more accidents regardless of whether a handheld or hands-free device was being used.

According to AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety findings, a driver can take up to 27 seconds to refocus his or her attention on the road after dialing, sending a text, or changing music using a hands-free device.

The National Transportation Safety Board recommended a total ban on cellphone use while driving, including hands-free use. If drivers must use hands-free technology to make a call, it is advisable for them to pull over before conversing on their device.

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