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Is speakerphone really safer?

At this point it is common knowledge that distracted driving caused by cellphone use is very dangerous. However, most people think of distracted driving as involving texting behind the wheel or being clearly distracted with one hand off the wheel holding the phone to one’s ear. This is not necessarily the only way that using a phone can be dangerous in the car. In fact, many studies have shown that using hands-free devices like headsets, speakerphone, or Bluetooth audio systems are also very distracting for drivers.

A recent poll found that 70 percent of drivers who use hands-free devices say that they use these devices in order to be safer and mitigate the risk of distracted driving. This runs contrary to the established fact that drivers using hands-free devices are still quite distracted, which brings us back to a key issue when it comes to distracted driving – public awareness.

Like drunk driving or fatigued driving, a lot of people think that the risks of distracted driving do not apply to them or that they are handling the situation in a way that makes it less personally risky. Unfortunately this is not generally the case and more needs to be done to emphasize that the increased odds of being involved in an accident when using a cellphone apply to everyone.

One issue regarding the use of hands-free devices are that state regulations on distracted driving do not address them. This helps contribute to the idea that hands-free devices are safe to use and do not increase the risk of being in a car accident.

Source: Insurance Journal, “Why Hands-Free Cell Phones Are Not Safer: Safety Council,” April 15, 2014.

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