MythBusters: Hands-Free Cell Phones No Safer When Driving

There is a pervasive belief that hands-free cell phones are safer than handheld cell phones when driving. smallheadphones.jpg

It’s an erroneous assertion, but it’s underscored in the many state statutes across the country that allow exceptions for cell phone conversations by a driver who is using a wireless headset, dashboard system or speakerphone instead of a handheld device.

Now, the MythBusters has debunked this myth.

It’s not the first time it’s been done. In fact, the National Safety Council has reported that at any moment, 9 percent of all drivers are talking on their cell phones, and roughly 26 percent of all auto accidents involve some type of cell phone use – including the use of hands-free devices.

Researchers with the NSC have further gone to point out that someone looking out the windshield can miss up to half of what’s around them when they are talking on the phone. It has to do with the way the brain processes moving images. This ability decreases by up to one-third when someone is engaged in a cell phone conversation – regardless of whether they are actually holding a phone in their hand.

The MythBusters, hosts of the popular Discovery Channel show, tested the assertion of hands-free safety in an August episode of the show. In an earlier episode, the hosts (in a controlled environment) revealed how drivers talking on a cell phone performed worse than those who were drunk.

But this time, they wanted to analyze the hands-free devices.

Although they couldn’t take it to the actual street (too dangerous), they tested this theory in a virtual driving simulator that was hooked up to an actual car. The system was already set up at Stanford University. The “virtual road” had pedestrians, bicyclists, dogs, children and other vehicles.

In testing maneuverability, one host scored 66 out of 100 while using a hands-free device. When he was using a handheld phone, he actually scored higher – a 73.

Then, they expanded their test to 30 drivers. Of those, only two managed to pass a driver’s test while they talked on a cell phone.

Of those 30 drivers, 15 were using handheld cell phones. Only one of those passed. Five others failed by driving the wrong way and nine others failed by crashing.

The other 15 drivers were talking on hands-free devices. Of those, eight filed by crashing and six failed for driving the wrong direction.

The MythBusters say the statistical difference is negligible, and this proves hands-free devices aren’t any safer than handheld phones.

Of course, as far as studies go, the sample size is relatively small. But the results are quite definitive.

It’s estimated that a third of all auto accidents are caused by some form of distraction, and engagement with smart phones are a huge part of that.

It can be difficult following a crash causing injury to prove distraction was a factor. An experienced traffic accident attorney can help by conducting a thorough analysis of phone records, witness statements and accident reconstruction data.

Contact our Carolina personal injury lawyers at Lee Law Offices today by calling 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:
Is hands-free cell phone use really safer for driving? We asked MythBusters., Aug. 20, 2015, By Faiz Siddiqui, The Washington Post

More Blog Entries:
Purscell v. Tico Ins. Co. – Intentional Wrongdoing and Bad Faith Insurance, July 31, 2015, Charlotte Auto Accident Attorney Blog

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