• Jinks Crow & Dickson

Does Hands-Free Technology Make Driving Safer?

In the United States, over 35,000 people died in motor vehicle accidents in 2015 alone. Currently, cell phone distractions are causing accidents in epic proportions. The National Safety Council’s Annual Injury and Fatality Report found that one out of every four accidents was caused by drivers distracted due to cell phone usage. While a study from Cambridge Mobile Telematics (CMT) found over half of all automotive accidents in the United States, a full 52%, occurred due to some form of cell phone distraction.

The automotive industry has attempted to curtail cell phone-related accidents by introducing voice-to-text applications and hands-free cell phone options in new vehicles. However, these attempts to make cell phone usage safer in vehicles may be in vain.

A study performed by the Texas A&M Transpiration Institute found that there is no evidence, at this point, to prove that voice-to-text applications offer real safety advantages over manual texting. Driver response times were significantly delayed regardless of whether the individual was manually texting or using a voice-to-text application. While the individual felt safer using the voice-to-text application, the driver’s performance suffered equally for both methods.

While texting and driving certainly causes a large number of automotive accidents, the vast majority of cell phone-related accidents occurred while the driver was talking on handheld or hands-free cell phones.

Similar to the results found by the Texas A&M Transpiration Institute, the Journal of Safety Research found that performance while using hands-free phones was rarely found to be better than performance with a driver using a handheld device. In fact, the study found that drivers attempted to compensate for the negative effect of their distracted driving while using a handheld device but failed to do so when the device was hands-free.

Combined, these studies indicate that while the automotive industry is attempting to make vehicles safer by offering talk-to-text and hands-free cell phone technology, there is no evidence that such technology is actually offering any real safety benefit. In fact, this new technology may give the driver a false sense of security while the driver’s performance suffers equally with both manual and hands-free methods.

CMT believes that while smartphones are the cause of a significant portion of driver’s distraction, they may also be the solution to this increasingly prevalent issue.

An app based on CMT’s DriveWell solution automatically records data while the phone senses driving occurring. The data is then provided to the driver after the drive with personalized driving tips. The app boasts that within 30 days, phone distractions were reduced by 35% with a 40% reduction in phone distractions after 60 days.

It remains to be seen whether DriveWell or similar applications will provide a substantial improvement to the ongoing distracted driving epidemic. However, with cell phone distractions found to be the cause of 25-52% of all automotive accidents, drivers should remain ever vigilant to the risk created while talking or texting on their phone. Drivers should not consider hands-free technology as a viable method to increase driving performance while using a cellphone. It is clear that the best way to escape dangerous cellphone distractions is to avoid using a cellphone while on the road.

Content provided by Morris Bart & Associates: www.morrisbart.com

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