Articles Tagged with hands-free

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hands free study.jpgThe laws of most states are coming around to what public perception (not to mention science) understands very clearly–drivers are distracted when they use handheld cellphones for talking, texting and e-mailing. Those distracted drivers are more likely to cause accidents. Most states have some sort of cell phone laws. In Maryland, for example, we prohibit the handheld use of cell phones for any purpose (even while stopped at a red light).

So, in Maryland and other states, we rely on hands-free technologies, like Bluetooth. Many vehicles are now coming equipped with their own hands-free devices. My Honda, for example, allows me to push a button on my steering wheel to access my voice-recognition speed dial. Even cooler, when I receive text messages, my car will read the messages aloud, and allow me to dictate a response.

Here’s the problem: these technologies may be no safer than the behaviors they were designed to replace. A new report, sponsored by AAA and conducted by the University of Utah, has determined that hands-free technologies don’t actually make us safer. The CEO of AAA calls it “a looming public safety crisis.” The report (found here). In the study, they used some rather high-tech looking devices to measure driver reactions and brain activity when listening to the radio, talking on a cellphone (with and without hands) and using voice-activated talk-to-text features.

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Semi Tractor Trailer.jpgAs of January 3, interstate truck and bus drivers (those driving between states) are forbidden from using hand-held cell phones while operating their trucks. The enforcement angle isn’t as strong as it could be–drivers violating the rule are fined up to $2,750 per offense, and their truck-driving privileges can be revoked for multiple offenses. Employers may be fined up to $11,000. If we were really serious about this, there shouldn’t be a warning period. One strike and you’re out.

Truckers still have the option of various hands-free devices, including bluetooth or speakerphones.

It’s hard to say where all this distracted driving/cell phone publicity is going to take us by the end of 2012. There are some groups that want to eliminate all cell phone use in all vehicles–whether hands-on or hands-free. If we were honest with ourselves, we would all probably admit that hands-free isn’t much better than hands-on. On the other hand, drivers and the trucking industry are pushing back hard, arguing that this is an assault on our personal freedoms.