Is it Safer to Use a Hands-Free Cell Phone?

While one might assume that talking on a hands-free cell phone while driving is safer than talking on a hand-held device, extensive research on the subject shows that actually isn't the case.

According to the National Safety Council (NSC), driver error—including distracted driving behaviors such as talking on a cell phone—causes up to 94 percent of all car accidents. Hands-free communication devices such as earpieces, dashboard systems, and speakerphones aren't safer than traditional hand-held cell phones; the NSC contends they give drivers a false sense of security, making them think that by choosing a hands-free option, they're taking the appropriate safety measures to protect themselves and others on the road.

So, just how dangerous is cell phone use behind the wheel? A 2006 study conducted by University of Utah psychologists put drivers in a driving simulator and found that those who used cell phones posed the same dangers as driving drunk, regardless of whether they used hand-held or hands-free devices. Participants using cell phones missed twice as many traffic lights as drivers without phones, and were slower to react to the intermittent breaking of a simulated car in front of them.

These findings are particularly concerning considering that in the world outside the driving simulator, missed lights and delayed reactions can lead to real, serious accidents.

Three Types of Driver Distractions

The NSC and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have identified three main types of driver distractions:

  • Visual distractions are those that cause drivers to take their eyes off the road, such as in-vehicle entertainment, navigation systems, or backseat passengers.
  • Manual distractions are things that cause drivers to take one—or both—hands off the steering wheel, such as eating or drinking, adjusting the radio, or grooming.
  • Cognitive distractions take mental focus away from driving, such as daydreaming or talking on a cell phone.

The most dangerous driver distractions are those that combine different types of distractions, such as texting, which requires drivers to take their eyes off the road, at least one hand off the wheel, and their focus away from driving.

Cell Phone Conversations vs. Conversations With Passengers

While hands-free cell phone devices can help drivers keep their eyes on the road and their hands on the wheel, the authors of the University of Utah study suggest that it's the conversation itself—not the handling of the cell phone—that poses the most danger.

woman with headset

However, the NSC clarifies that for adult drivers, talking on a cell phone is far more dangerous than talking to a passenger. Why? Well, according to the NSC, it's because, unlike a person on the other end of a cell phone call, a passenger can serve as another set of eyes, pointing out driving hazards and recognizing when the demands of challenging traffic require drivers to stop talking. Studies have concluded that phone conversations distract drivers in ways that passive listening does not.

Indiana Laws on Cell Phone Usage While Driving

Despite the danger, Indiana cell phone driving law doesn't outright ban the practice. However, the law does prohibit novice drivers age 18 and younger from using both hands-free and hand-held cell phones. Additionally, the law forbids all Indiana drivers from texting while driving.

Were You Injured in an Accident?

If you were injured in a car accident caused by someone who was distracted by their hands-free or hand-held cell phone at the time of the crash, you have legal recourse. Sevenish Law can help you explore your legal options and fight for the financial recovery you need. Our firm's Clients First® Bill of Rights ensures that you'll receive the respectful, honorable and aggressive representation you deserve. Call our Indianapolis law office today at 800.278.9200 or complete our convenient online contact form for a free initial consultation.