Chris and James Welsh of Welsh & Welsh
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Do Hands-Free Devices Really Prevent Distracted Driving Accidents?

Published on Dec 11, 2018 at 10:20 am in Car Accidents.

We all know that talking or texting on a hand-held device while behind the wheel is dangerous. Just in Nebraska, there are thousands of distracted driving-related car accident every year. Many of these are a result of using a cell phone. But what about hands-free devices? Are they able to prevent distracted accidents by putting drivers’ hands back on the wheel?

A hands-free device could be the speakerphone feature on your device, a Bluetooth earpiece, or the dashboard system installed in your vehicle. Although hands-free devices are generally safer than those that are handheld, they are not risk-free. There are still a number of dangers involved when a driver does not fully concentrate on the road.

The Effect of Distracted Driving on the Brain

Whether we realize it or not, attention is a limited resource. Each person only has a certain amount of attention available. Most of the time, when someone is focusing on one thing they’ll be unable to focus on anything else. While we may be able to look at something while listening to something different, we’re not able to devote your full attention to both tasks, which is why we’re likely to miss something.

Those attention principles can also be applied while driving. You may think that you can actively and responsibly drive while your hands on the wheel and eyes on the road, but if your mind is elsewhere because you’re having a conversation with someone through a hands-free device, you may miss important events going on around you.

This is because, according to the National Safety Council (NSC), the activity in the area of the brain that processes moving images decreases by up to 33 percent when listening or talking on a cell phone. Drivers are also likely to miss seeing up to 50 percent of what around them when talking on any kind of cellphone.

Talking On a Cellphone Versus Talking to a Passenger

Many individuals who choose to use hands-free devices will say that talking on their phone that way is no different than talking to a passenger in the front or back seat. This is incorrect for a couple of reasons.

First off, if the other passenger in your vehicle is an adult, it’s likely they can act as another set of eyes by pointing out possible road hazards the driver could miss. In addition to that, an adult passenger is likely to notice when traffic or road conditions warrant concentration, so they will stop talking so the driver can focus their full attention on the road. Children can also be quieted while inside a vehicle.

Nebraska’s Distracted Driving Laws

Currently, hands-free devices are legal to use while operating a vehicle in Nebraska. Using handheld wireless devices to read, write, or send communications while operating a motor vehicle is prohibited. Drivers who are found to be violating this secondary enforcement law can be fined after being charged with another violation or offense. A driver who violates the law will be fined $200 for a first offense, $300 for a second, and $500 for subsequent offenses, in addition to points against their license.

These laws are constantly changing and evolving, which is why it’s important to remain cognizant as to what the current guidelines are. Even with the law currently allowing hands-free devices, it’s important to remember just how dangerous they can be. It’s also a good idea to be aware of what you can do to prevent instances of distracted driving.

Preventing Distracted Driving Accidents

As you can see, it doesn’t matter if you’re using a handheld or hands-free device while driving. Both are dangerous and can lead to serious accidents. In order to avoid crashes related to unawareness and distractions, take the following recommendations into consideration:

  • Limit the use of voice-activated technology to core driving-related activities like windshield wipers, cruise control, and climate control.
  • Ensure the activities above do not contribute to increased safety risks due to mental distraction while operating a moving vehicle.
  • Disable uses of voice-to-text technologies including social media, email, and text messaging, so they are inoperable while the car is moving.
  • Understand your state’s distracted driving laws and how to responsibly use in-vehicle technologies.

If you’ve been injured as a result of another driver’s actions, our lawyers will provide you with the legal representation you need to hold the negligent party responsible for their reckless behavior. At Welsh & Welsh, we understand how devastating distracted driving accident can be. This is why we’re here to support you through this difficult time. For more information on your legal rights and options after a crash, reach out to us.