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Hands Free Is Still Distracted

If you were asked to perform an activity that had a 23% chance of causing you or someone else injury or death, would you?  Then why drive distracted?

In this current non-stop culture, cell phones have become an extension of our body and our main means to keep in communication with home and work. The increase of cell phone use over the last decade has been great for productivity, or so we think, but created a very unsafe environment on our roads.

How many times have you gotten into your car and said to yourself “I am not going to allow myself to be distracted!” Then minutes into the drive, you’ve changed radios stations multiple times, reached for your bag in the back seat, made a phone call, and realized you’re driving to work and it is a Saturday.  Why?  Because the non-distracted driver you had every intention of being when you left just became the distracted driver more and more common on today’s roadways.

You may think because you are using a “hands-free” device you are being safer, but statistics show you are still a distracted driver. According to the National Safety Council, drivers looking out the window while talking on a mobile phone miss up to 50% of what is around them. Multi-tasking is a myth. When talking on a mobile phone, and even a hands-free device, the brain quickly toggles between two different tasks, leaving about 1/3 of the brain to process moving images. This includes 1/3 of the moving vehicles, signage, pedestrians, and other objects coming in your line of site while driving.

Extensive research shows the dangers of distracted driving. Studies say that drivers using phones are four times as likely to cause a crash as other drivers, and the likelihood that they will crash is equal to that of someone with a .08 percent blood alcohol level, the point at which drivers are generally considered intoxicated.


Distracted Driving remains one of the TOP causes of traffic deaths and injuries in the United States.  At any given daylight moment in the United States, more than 9 people are killed and more than 1,153 people are injured in crashes that involve a distracted driver.  Across America each day, approximately 660,000 drivers are using cell phones or manipulating electronic devices while driving, a number that has held steady since 2010. (National Occupant Protection Use Survey).

According to a New York Times article by Matt Richtel, although American roads are becoming safer, the number of driving fatalities has remained around 42,000 a year for most of the last decade. “We’ve spent billions on air bags, antilock brakes, better steering, safer cars and roads, but the number of fatalities has remained constant,” said David Strayer, a psychology professor at the University of Utah and a leading researcher in the field of distracted driving.
“Our return on investment for those billions is zero,” he added. “And that’s because we’re using devices in our cars.”


Today, people no longer get into their vehicle just “to drive”. Vehicles have become an extension of everyday life with calls being made, emails and texts answered, and notes written, all while driving. Whether using a hand-held or hands-free device to complete these tasks, the end result is the same. Devices are a distraction from the main purpose of operating a motor vehicle.

“Driving a car is a very complex task,” says Barbara Harsha, executive director of the Governors Highway Safety Association, which estimates that distractions are associated with 15 percent to 25 percent of crashes at all levels. “It requires your complete attention. All it takes is a glance away for more than two seconds and you can get into serious trouble.”


According to GHSA, as of November 2015, 14 states have a full hand-held ban, and 20 states have full cell phone bans on “novice drivers”. This is progress, but it is up to each individual to weigh the importance of using a cell phone or hands free device over their own and others safety.

Employers are beginning to lead the charge to end distracted driving, taking on the responsibility of creating a safer work environment for their employees. Expectations on employees to use cell phones for business when driving expose them to a preventable crash risk. 

Action can be taken to reduce risk by creating and promoting a corporate cell-phone policy banning the use of hand-held and hands-free mobile phones while driving. Changing the culture can go a long way towards demonstrating to employees they truly are a company’s greatest asset! 

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