Are hands-free devices safe to use while driving?

San Antonio recently joined the ranks of cities that have hands-free laws in place to enhance the safety of roads. As such, you may feel as though using your Bluetooth speaker or other hands-free device makes you a safer driver, as well as one complying to the law. However, hands-free devices might be more dangerous than you think.

According to U.S. News & World Report, 56 percent of drivers polled by the American Automobile Association condone the use of hands-free devices while driving. The same poll shows that about two-thirds of drivers do not agree with using handheld electronics when you are behind the wheel, demonstrating a general faith in the safety of hands-free devices compared to hand-held.

It is estimated that about 25 percent of car accidents are attributed to distracted driving, or inattention. This has led to many states and cities around the country enacting laws that ban texting while driving, but the same states do not have anything in place to prevent you from using your hands-free devices. However, the faith in hands-free devices may be misleading. If you are driving with the radio on, a recent study shows that you would be three times less distracted than if you were using a speech-to-text device. This makes sense because while your hands are on the wheel and your eyes are on the road, your mind is thinking more about the speech-to-text task than about driving.

When you talk to someone while driving, you run the risk of being distracted and subsequently making mistakes. The same study mentioned above found that there was only a slight difference between drivers calling someone using a handheld cellphone compared to a hands-free device.

Making a call, as well as listening to the radio, using speech-to-text and talking to a passenger involves cognitive, or mental distraction. This can prevent you from seeing other cars, noticing a dangerous situation or even reacting in time. Just by keeping your hands on your wheel and eyes on the road, you may not be as safe as you think if you continue to use a device, even if it is hands-free.

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