Is Hands-Free Tech Really Safer Behind the Wheel?

April 24, 2019

Motor vehicle crashes are the no. 1 cause of workplace death and distracted driving is one of the fastest-growing risk factors. Distracted driving activities range from eating, drinking and personal grooming to texting and making phone calls. But what about hands-free tech? It is a helpful tool or just another distraction?

The research

Many have questioned the validity of hands-free devices in curbing distraction, wondering if they contribute to attention deficits behind the wheel. While there is limited research on the topic today, we found a few studies that offer some insight.

What do the experts say? Are hands-free devices a dangerous distraction?

  • Yes, according to the National Safety Council. They report that the brain remains distracted 27 seconds after a driver issues a voice command to in-vehicle technology and drivers talking on the phone – handheld or hands-free – increase their risk of injury and property damage crashes fourfold.
  • Yes, according to research by a cognitive distraction expert at the University of Utah. His research team found that as mental workload and distractions increased, drivers reacted more slowly, scanned the road less and missed visual clues.
  • No, according to research by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute. Published earlier this year, the study examined a sample of 3,454 drivers and found that the task of speaking on a hands-free device does not appear to have any detrimental effects.

Preventing distractions

No matter the risk of hands-free devices, employers should address driving distractions of any form through awareness, training and a formal company policy. For help designing a distracted driving policy, visit the National Safety Council, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or the CompWest Loss Control Toolbox.

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