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Study says hands-free tech isn’t a solution to distracted driving

We have previously written that California has some of the most stringent anti-distracted-driving laws in the nation. The majority of states have banned texting while driving, but California is one of about a dozen states to prohibit all drivers from using handheld cellphones behind the wheel.

In order to remain in compliance with this law, drivers and auto manufacturers have turned to Bluetooth technology and voice-activated commands built right into the vehicle. Thus, the driver’s hands can stay on the wheel and their eyes can stay on the road. In theory, this should solve the problem, right? Actually, a recent study reveals that using such technology might actually be more likely to cause an auto accident than talking on a handheld cellphone.

Earlier this summer, the American Automobile Association’s Foundation for Traffic Safety published a study showing that voice-activated technology is not a safe alternative to talking on a handheld cellphone. In fact, it actually increases a driver’s mental workload and is ultimately more distracting and dangerous than having a conversation on a handheld phone.

Driving distractions can be broken down into three categories: visual, manual and cognitive. In short, a distraction is anything that takes your eyes off the road, your hands off the wheel or your mind off the task of driving.

While voice-activated technology may reduce your visual and manual distractions, it greatly increases cognitive distractions. Performing hands-free tasks such as sending a voice-activated email or text requires much more concentration than simply talking on a handheld phone.

Therefore, using voice-activated technology may cause “inattention blindness.” This means that you are seeing the road in front of you but not actually processing or paying attention to what you see.

It is important to remember that hands-free is not equal to risk-free. In light of this, a distracted driver who causes a car accident cannot necessarily escape liability just because they were using a hands-free device.

If you or a loved one were seriously injured by a distracted driver (of any sort), you may wish to speak to an experienced personal injury attorney who can help you understand your rights and options.

Source:, “AAA study: When driving, hands-free does not equal risk-free,” Izaskun E. Larrañeta, June 13, 2013

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