A new feature can be found in many vehicles on the market today - dashboard devices. These built-in devices allow drivers to control navigation, music, messaging, phone calls, internet, and more - just like a cell phone. While the goal of allowing drivers to keep their hands on the wheel is admirable, the evidence shows distraction doesn’t go away just because the device is hands-free. That’s because distraction doesn’t occur in the hands, it occurs in the head!
More than thirty studies have shown that hands-free devices do not make drivers safer because the brain remains distracted.“What we found is that you’re not cognitively focused on driving, but the distraction,” said Beth Mosher, spokeswoman for the American Automobile Association in Chicago. In spite of the evidence, 80% of drivers believe hands-free devices are safer than handheld.
Automakers manufacture vehicles with the features that consumers value. This does not mean these features are safe. “Automakers agree that hands on the wheel and eyes on the road continue to be critical to safe driving,” said Wade Newton, a spokesman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers.“ Portable phones and navigation devices are everywhere, and consumers are using these devices in their vehicles. It’s important to discourage drivers from using portable electronics because they were never designed to be used while driving.”
This message isn’t getting out though - 53% of U.S. drivers think a hands-free device must be safe if it is built into the vehicle. These devices are wonderful in many ways and are certainly a convenience, but we must always remember that taking our attention away from the road while driving is incredibly risky.