Hands Free Cell Phone Driving May Not Be As Safe as You Think

It has been against the law for a few years now in most states to use your cell phone while driving. The premise is that if you are not holding your phone during a phone call or texting with your eyes off the road, there will be less vehicle-related accidents.

While that is certainly true, it is not the only danger with using devices while driving. Many people use hands-free devices on their phone, so that they can keep their hands on the wheel and still drive. However, two new studies conducted at the University of Utah shows that even hands-free, voice-controlled in-vehicle automobile systems can be dangerous while driving.

Why Hands-Free Talking is Dangerous

Using a hands-free voice-controlled device still is distracting to drivers, according to studies conducted by the University of Utah and sponsored by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. If your fleet drivers are talking on the phone with such a device, their attention and focus is not entirely on the road.

The studies have shown that anything to keep your focus away from driving can be potentially dangerous not just for your drivers, but others on the road.

Studies of Hands-Free Cell Phone Use

The two new studies conducted at the University of Utah, both dealt with types of hands-free devices and voice-controlled systems. The first study looked at using voice-controlled systems to make phone calls, instead of grabbing the phone and looking for a contact.

The Chevrolet MyLink, Toyota’s Entune, Hyundai’s Blue Link Telematics System, Chrysler’s UConnect, Ford SYNC, Ford MyFord Touch, and Mercedes’ Command systems were included in the study.

While the researchers found some command systems of certain vehicles better than reaching to change the radio station, it was still considered distracting, according to the five-point scale used for measuring driver distractions.

The second study looked at how Siri on the iPhone (as well as other ways to interact with a vehicle) helped people text and use social media apps on their phone. Like the other study, this was still a very distracting activity when people were driving and using the apps, even though they weren’t actually holding or looking down at their phone.

“Some of the most advanced technology, such as Siri, can lead to high levels of distraction when you’re trying to drive,” said University of Utah psychology professor and study leader David Strayer.

What the Studies Entailed

There were a total of 162 students from the University of Utah that volunteered for these studies. The volunteers drove a vehicle with a researcher taking notes of their activities. The volunteers were asked to use these different hands-free tools, apps and systems, while the researcher compared their focus with and without using the systems.

The researchers looked for things like speeding or stopping, and missing stop signs. Their driving activity was also recorded by a video camera. The study found that the speech-to-text systems were the most distracting, followed by making calls with a hands-free device, talking to a passenger, listening to an audio book, and listening to the radio.

It is important that even with hands-free, voice-controlled systems, your fleet drivers do not use these distractions while they are on the road. To be safe, always have a commercial auto insurance policy to protect your business.

For specifics on the distracted driving results using the five-point scale used for measuring distracted driving, refer to the press release.