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“Is hands free phone usage as distracting when driving as putting the phone to your ear?”

I’m Katelyn Holub, an attorney focusing on personal injury law in northwest Indiana.

Welcome to Personal Injury Primer, where we break down the law into simple terms, provide legal tips, and discuss topics related to personal injury law.

Today’s question comes from caller who says, “I was in a crash and the other driver seemed distracted at the time. It looked like he was talking to someone when he hit me. When I asked him, he said he was using a hands-free cellphone and that he was driving safely. How can that be if he was distracted when he hit me?”

While we all have been told that it is not safe for drivers to use a hand-held cellphone while they are behind the wheel, does that mean hands-free cellphone driving is safe? Not surprisingly, many drivers have turned to using hands-free cellphones. The companies that sell hands-free devices claim they are a safe alternative to hand-held cellphones, but is that true?

The AAA group published a study not long ago that strongly suggests that using a hands-free cellphone while driving causes a significant amount of cognitive distraction and may lead to a car accident.

During the study, researchers measured participant heart rate, eye movement, and brain activity while operating a car set up with monitoring equipment. The participants were given various tasks to complete during the study to test how their concentration was impacted while they performed the task and operated a motor vehicle.

The results showed that drivers who used a hands-free cellphone were only slightly less distracted than when they used a hand-held cellphone.

It seems that the brain cannot fully focus on two complex tasks simultaneously. The brain allocates competing attention to both tasks on an alternating basis.

In other words, for a discrete amount of time the brain focuses on driving, then for a few seconds focuses on talking and listening and formulating language responses, then switches focus back to driving. This frequent change in focus leaves cognitive gaps where drivers are not concentrating on the road. Thus, the risk of a serious accident is not greatly different between hands free and hand held calling. Both contribute to the problem of distracted driving and can result in more vehicle collisions.

I hope you found this information helpful. If you have questions about your legal rights if you get hurt due to the carelessness of another person, or as a result of substandard medical care, or due to a product defect, construction injury, or any other type of personal injury, please give us a call at (219) 736-9700. You can also learn more about us by visiting our website at DavidHolubLaw.com – while there make sure you request a copy of our book “Fighting for Truth”.