Hands-Free Driving is Still Distracted Driving

Oct 4, 2019 by

Hands-Free Driving can Still be Considered Distracted Driving

Now that cellphones have become part of everyone’s daily life, people talk on the phone while driving, despite the potential for distraction. For decades, distracted driving has taken on many forms such as eating, shaving, and putting on makeup. However, nothing distracts a driver more than using a cellphone.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported 3,166 distracted driving deaths in 2017 alone. Cellphone use is the source of most distractions.

When car accidents were just starting to be linked to cell phone usage, the distraction was believed to be the act of physically holding the phone. To combat this problem, many states have passed strict laws banning or restricting the use of handheld devices (including cellphones and tablets) while driving.

Most states allow drivers to use their devices in a hands-free manner. However, a hands-free conversation can still be a distraction.

Hands-free laws aren’t enough to curb distraction

A conversation alone is enough to distract a driver from the road. Most people have, at some point, missed a turn due to a conversation they were having with a passenger. It’s not hard to see how even a hands-free conversation can be a major distraction. Their hands might be on the steering wheel, but their mind is somewhere else.

When driving, a person’s mind needs to remain on the road at all times. If a distracted driver causes an accident that results in serious injuries and/or death to another driver, they’ll face harsh penalties.

Distracted drivers are asking for a lawsuit

A distracted driver who causes serious injuries or death will likely be sued in civil court for negligence. Laws are strict when serious injuries are involved. Even in no-fault states like Florida, where the right to sue after a car accident is restricted, seriously injured people can sue negligent at-fault drivers.

Causing serious injuries or death will do more than raise car insurance premiums. If the driver was under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or committed a crime during the accident, they might get charged with vehicular assault or vehicular manslaughter. At that point, car insurance premiums won’t matter because they’ll be in jail and unable to drive at all. If alcohol was involved, they might even lose their driving privileges for the rest of their life.

Some states have been slow to pass restrictive laws

We know that cellphones are a major distraction, but some states have taken more than a decade to enact laws to combat the issue.

Although California and New York have had hands-free laws for years, other states are just getting on board, and some states are starting small. For example, in June 2019, Florida finally passed their version of a hands-free law that makes texting while driving a primary offense. However, according to Florida Today, drivers are still allowed to hold the phone to talk while driving except when in a school or active work zone. Drivers are also allowed to text at stoplights and toll booths since the law only applies when the car is in motion.

These laws seem like a step in the right direction, but it’s just not enough to curb the problem. Most lawmakers issue advice along with the new laws and recommend that drivers turn off their cellphone while driving. It’s a nice sentiment, but unlikely to be followed.

In 2014, CBS News reported that 75% of motorists said they know texting and driving is dangerous but they do it anyway, even in spite of laws banning texting and driving. More than a quarter honestly believe they can safely text and drive at the same time. That’s a subjective belief that probably isn’t as true as they believe it to be. Anyone who has been driving for a period of time knows how easy it is to have near-collisions while your full attention is on the road. Cars change lanes abruptly and dart in and out of parking spaces, and motorcycles seem to come out of nowhere. Texting while driving diverts a driver’s attention for a period of time, increasing the chances of an accident that would have otherwise been preventable.

Education may be the only hope

Since people admittedly choose not to follow the law despite knowing the risks, education may be the only hope for reducing the number of cellphone-related distracted driving accidents.

Parents need to teach their kids to drive undistracted and model that behavior from the time their kids are young. Friends need to speak up when their friends start texting and driving. As a last resort, teens may need to be exposed to the devastation of the aftermath to make the reality sink in that sending or reading just one text message isn’t worth risking someone’s life.

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