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Hands-Free Devices Offer Few Safety Benefits

Over the past decade, cellphones have become essential tools for people in all walks of life. Although these devices help people stay in touch like never before, they are also responsible for the emergence of a significant threat on our nation’s highways: distracted driving.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 3,092 people died and an additional 419,000 people were injured in motor vehicle accidents involving distracted drivers in 2010, the last year for which statistics are available. Overall, crashes involving distracted drivers accounted for a staggering 18 percent of all motor vehicle accidents that year.

Although distracted driving can take many forms, safety experts have identified cellphone use while behind the wheel as the most significant danger. In order to address this issue, phone manufacturers and automakers worked to develop hands-free systems that allow drivers not only to talk, but also to compose and receive texts and emails all without taking their hands from the wheel or their eyes from the road. Initially, experts lauded these devices as a safe, more responsible alternative to hand-held cellphone use.

Research indicates, however, that these hands-free systems do not offer significant safety gains over hand-held cellphone use. Researchers at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute recently evaluated the performance of drivers on a closed course. Half of those involved in the study used their cellphones to talk, text and compose emails while the other half used hands-free devices to perform the same tasks.

As expected, drivers using their cellphones performed poorly on the course. Drivers took their eyes from the road for longer time periods and steered their vehicles worse than their established baseline performances. Surprisingly, however, drivers using hands-free devices performed just as poorly. Researchers discovered that the cognitive attention required to compose a simple text — even via a hands-free system — is significant enough to adversely affect a driver’s ability to control his vehicle safely.

Unfortunately, given consumers’ increasing need to be connected at all times, the problem of distracted driving is not likely to disappear any time soon.

A Personal Injury Attorney Can Help

If you or someone you love has suffered injury in a motor vehicle accident due to the negligence of a distracted driver, contact an experienced personal injury attorney. A knowledgeable personal injury lawyer can assess your case and help you get the fair and adequate compensation for medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering you deserve. For more information about what a personal injury lawyer can do for you, contact an attorney today.