According to a new study, interacting with handsfree functions on a smartphone (like Siri) while driving causes more distractions than texting. In 2010, an estimated 160,000 crashes involved texting or emailing with a handheld device. In the same year, more than one million crashes involved talking on a cell phone, according to the National Safety Council.
Texting while driving has become a national concern, prompting 44 states to ban text messaging while driving, and many states placing a ban on hand-held use of cell phones while driving. According to Distraction.gov, the official government site for distracted driving, 15 states now prohibit all drivers from using hand-held cell phones while driving. New Jersey bans all handheld phone use, and bans texting while driving. That same concern, however, has not extended to handsfree smartphone usage.
When interacting with handsfree features, the driver’s eyes remain on the road and hands on the steering wheel, but his attention is elsewhere.
– Distracted drivers tend to miss visual cues such as exits, red lights and stop signs.
– Driver reaction and response time become delayed as they are required to “attention switch,” causing a delay in a driver’s braking reaction time.
– Driver reaction time with use of a hands-free device is slower than the reaction time of driver impaired at a .08 alcohol intoxication concentration, according to the NSC.
Clearly, handsfree is not distraction-free. Each day in the United States, nine people are killed in crashes that involve a distracted driver. At any given moment during daylight hours on the road, an estimated 660,000 drivers are using electronic devices while driving, according to the National Occupant Protection Use Survey (NOPUS). Interacting with handsfree functions while driving is as dangerous as driving with a .08 BAC, and the crash, injury and fatality statistics are just as shocking.