Hands-Free Devices are Equally Distracting

Ever since smartphones hit the market, distracted driving-related accidents have skyrocketed. Distracted driving fatalities in 2015 alone were over 3,000 according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

The initial idea that phones were only distracting when held sparked the manufacturing of hands-free cell phone devices. The intention was to decrease eyes on the screens and get them back on the road- but are they effective?

Surprisingly, not as effective as we’d hoped.



Last summer, the University of Sussex conducted a study to measure the driving abilities of people using hands-free devices (distracted drivers) compared to those using no devices (undistracted drivers). The participants were put through two experiments to measure how audio conversations would affect the visual processing of their brain when driving. When comparing the results, distracted drivers:

  • Detected half has many road hazards
  • Reacted two times slower.
  • Had a peripheral vision 4 times smaller when driving.

Backing this data, another study released over the winter by Queensland University of Technology (QUT) found similar statistics. Using a driving simulator, QUT tested the abilities of three groups of drivers: hand-held phones, hands-free devices, and no devices. The experiments in this study were focused on measuring reaction times to pedestrians crossing a footpath. Unfortunately, the hand-held and hands-free device drivers were similar, both showing:

  • Greater than 40% slower reaction times to pedestrians.
  • Decreased peripheral visions
  • Abrupt breaking resulting in fender benders.

In addition, BOTH studies reported there was no difference in results based on years and level of driving experience…yikes.



We all know there are laws prohibiting the use of hand-held phones when driving. At this time, no state or federal laws are strict enough to prohibit the use of hands-free devices- but that doesn’t leave you off the hook!

In the case of an accident, phone records can be subpoenaed to determine if any of the drivers involved were on a phone call. Stating you were using a hands-free device may not help you. You were still using a cell phone. You were still distracted.

Hands-free devices are convenient, but as studies are showing, there is no safe method of using cell phones while driving.

The NHTSA estimates over 660,000 people use cell phones while driving during daylight hours. Don’t be one of them, and don’t allow others you know to be one either. Encourage your friends and family to hang up the phone or pull over to take a call. There is no conversation worth putting anyone’s life at risk. If you have been hurt by a distracted driver, you could be entitled to compensation for your injuries.  Contact Rosenberg & Gluck to speak to one of our experienced attorneys for a free case evaluation.



University of Sussex (access to full article on bottom of page): http://www.sussex.ac.uk/broadcast/read/35831

Queensland University of Tech:  https://www.qut.edu.au/news/news?news-id=112640