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Distracted Driving: The Hands-Free Myth

In our connected society, people often use driving as a time to catch up on important calls or schedule appointments over the phone. For most Americans, the cell phone is more than just an auxiliary device, it’s a transportable hub of instant connections and endless distractions. When a driver is stuck in traffic or starting a long commute, they may be tempted to review emails, call a friend, or take care of necessary business. After all, our society tells us that we need to be constantly busy and regularly entertained; otherwise, we are not effectively utilizing our time.

Reaching for our cell phones in a moment of boredom or idleness has become a matter of habit and routine. Most drivers know that it’s dangerous to hold a cell phone, text, or surf the web while driving. However, according to the National Safety Council, “8 in 10 drivers mistakenly believe hands-free cell phones are safer” than using a handheld device.

As David Teater, the senior director of Transportation Initiatives at the National Safety Council, explains, “the brain does not truly multi-task. Just like you can’t read a book and talk on the phone, you can’t safely operate a vehicle and talk on the phone. With some state laws focusing on handheld bans and carmakers putting hands-free technology in vehicles, no wonder people are confused.”

Hands-Free Diving Is Incredibly Risky

Scientifically speaking, your brain can’t multi-task in the way most people think it can. When you’re having a conversation on the phone, the activity in the area of your brain that’s responsible for processing moving images decreases by up to 1/3. That’s why drivers using hands-free devices can miss up to 50% of their surroundings, including pedestrians, red lights, work zone signs, other drivers, and bicyclists. In fact, some new studies even suggest that using voice to text is more distracting than if someone were holding a phone and typing a text by hand.

There is another factor that makes hands-free devices so dangerous. While a text can take a few risky seconds, a hands-free conversation can last for hours. During this time, you’re only devoting 50% of your attention to the road, increasing your overall chances of being involved in a collision. Take note, this does not mean that you should prioritize texting or over hands-free devices. In an ideal scenario, you wouldn’t be utilizing your cell phone in the car at all.

So, if hands-free communication is more dangerous than originally believed, how can we set ourselves up for success on the road? Here are a few simple tips to keep your eyes and mind focused on driving:

  • #JustDriveKC Tip #1: Take a Stand
    • Turn off your phone while you’re driving. If you use it as a GPS device, you can change your voicemail to include a message explaining that you’re driving and will call the person back ASAP. Likewise, avoid calling your family and friends if you know they’re driving.
  • #JustDriveKC Tip #2: Get a Ride
    • If you’re in a situation where you absolutely need to use your phone, consider hiring a rideshare service or taxi driver to reach your destination safely.
  • #JustDriveKC Tip #3: Pull Over
    • Pull over before using your cell phone or updating your GPS device. It also helps to schedule breaks if you’re going to be on the road for a long time.

Learn More:

At Meyerkord, Russell & Hergott, we’ve seen firsthand the devastation distracted driving causes to individuals and families alike. By making a decision to not drive distracted, you’re not only protecting yourself but also everyone on the road. For more resources and information, visit our  #JustDriveKC page or search and use hashtag #JustDriveKC on social media.

If you’ve been injured in an accident involving a distracted driver, contact the Kansas City car accident lawyers at Meyerkord, Russell & Hergott today. Our trial-tested legal team can investigate your case, calculate your injury-related expenses, negotiate with insurance companies, and customize a litigation strategy that proves the negligent party is responsible for both the accident and your condition. If necessary, we can even take your case to court to guarantee that you’re awarded a settlement or verdict that safeguards your quality of life.

Contact Meyerkord, Russell & Hergott at (816) 867-8611 to schedule a consultation.

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