Is It Safe to Use a Hands-Free Device While Driving?

Jeffrey BreitApril 30, 2020

While 80% of drivers in the U.S. think using a hands-free device while driving is safer than using a hand-held phone, studies have, unfortunately, indicated that this simply isn’t true. According to the National Safety Council, 24% of all call crashes involve cell phone conversations, hand-held and otherwise. In fact, some research even suggests that talking on the phone through a hands-free device is more dangerous than driving drunk!

Protect yourself and your loved ones and educate yourself with the most current research on distracted driving safety.

What is Considered a “Hands-Free Device?”

A hands-free device can be a Bluetooth earpiece, a dashboard system installed in the vehicle itself, or a speakerphone feature on your phone. The National Safety Council’s research has shown that hands-free devices are dangerous because they are distracting. Distracted driving is one of the leading causes of car crashes in the United States, and goes beyond texting. Anything that distracts the eyes, hands, or mind from the task at hand is considered a distraction.

The Unknown Dangers of Hands-Free Devices

When listening or speaking on the phone, the brain’s ability to process moving images decreases by up to 1/3, and, even when the driver’s eyes are on the road, they overlook 50% of what is around them. Some may say talking on a hands-free device is the same as having a conversation with a passenger in the car, but the National Safety Council says this isn’t true, because passengers also watch the road and will usually warn drivers about dangers they may overlook. In fact, the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration also says talking on a cell phone is more dangerous than having a conversation with a passenger.

Here are a few of the most important statistics on distracted driving, cell phones, and using hands-free devices while driving:

  • 24% of car crashes involve cell phone conversations.
  • A person’s ability to process moving images decreases by up to 33% when talking on a phone.
  • Drivers talking on a cell phone can miss up to 50% of what’s around them.
  • More than 13% of distraction-affected crashes involving cell phone use are fatal. 2,841 people died in distraction-affected crashes in 2018 alone.
  • Over 250,000 distraction-affected car crashes result in personal injury every year.

The dangers involved in hands-free phone use while driving are significant and include death, property damage, and personal injury to the driver, their passengers, and those in other cars. For those who have been hurt in a car crash caused by distracted driving, a Virginia personal injury lawyer may be able to help improve the situation and secure your future.

Cell Phone Vs. Drunk Driving Mythbusters

The University of Utah held a benchmark study in 2006 to test adults who drive intoxicated, revealing they were less dangerous than those who held a phone conversation while driving. Additionally, that same study had more cell phone users crash than drunk drivers, and they found no difference between the performance of drivers who used hand-held phones or hands-free devices.

Many similar studies have produced comparable results, and researchers at Touro University, found the level of impairment between drunk drivers and hands-free cell phone users to be nearly equal. Even the popular scientists and TV hosts of the popular show MythBusters put the drunk driving vs. cell phone use theory to the test. In their experiment, the drunk driver did better on a driving course than the driver who spoke on the phone with a hands-free device.

Some speculate that people drive more dangerously when they are using a hands-free device because they are lulled into a false sense of security. Hands-free devices have been popularly advertised as safety measures to minimize the dangers of distracted driving and avoid hand-held cell phone use. Regardless of the ample research debunking this claim, many drivers remain unaware of the risk of hands-free use and companies continue to produce and advertise hands-free devices. The best cell phone safety while driving is not to use a cell phone when you’re behind the wheel.

Virginia’s Cell Phone Driving Laws

Virginia’s cell phone driving laws previously prohibited text-based activities while driving, including texting and emailing. However, effective January 1, 2021, it is now illegal to even hold a handheld personal communications device while operating a motor vehicle on the highways in Virginia. The penalty is a $125 fine for the first offence and $250 for the second.

There are, of course, some exceptions to this law. Those include:

  • The operator of any emergency vehicle while on duty 
  • A driver who is lawfully parked or stopped
  • Any person using a cell phone to report an emergency

While it is still legal in Virginia to use voice commands like Siri or Google Assistant to make calls, select music, and more, these hands-free controls can still contribute to distracted driving.  

Virginia’s Hands-Free Law

Previously, Virginia’s hands-free law only applied to work zones. Drivers were prohibited from using hand-held devices while driving in a work zone, such as an active construction location. However, Virginia’s cell phone driving laws have been modified to apply to a wider range of drivers.

On July 8, 2020, Governor Ralph Norman signed a bill that bans holding handheld personal communications devices while driving a motor vehicle. The law became effective on January 1, 2021. Violating the law is punishable by a fine of $125 or $250 for a second offence. Being found guilty in a highway work zone results in a $250 fine.

What to Do if Injured By A Distracted Driver

From all of us at Breit Biniazan, we encourage you not to use a cell phone, hands-free or otherwise, while driving any type of motor vehicle.

If you are in an auto accident with someone who was using a hand-held or hands-free cell phone device, we encourage you to contact our personal injury attorneys. A vehicle injury lawyer can help you get the justice you deserve and secure your future in the event of a serious trauma, such as a brain injury. Our legal team is devoted to each and every one of our clients, and we ensure that each case gets the attention it deserves so you can move forward with your life.


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