Is Hands-Free Driving Really Safer?

Everyone knows they should avoid texting and driving. Focusing on a smartphone screen rather than the road is a recipe for disaster and may lead to serious accidents. This commonsense principle has led Virginia to pass a law forcing drivers to only use hands-free devices when they are driving. However, as a Virginia personal injury attorney knows, even though hands-free cell phone use lets people keep their eyes on the road, it still does not entirely remove the distraction of speaking on the phone. Additionally, the use of hands-free technology may also bring a curious piece of human psychology known as the Peltzman effect into play.

Hands-Free Device Statistics

Hands-free driving seems like it should make people safer, but some studies show it may actually pose even more risks. Either way, the statistics show that it can still be dangerous. For instance, even though only nine percent of drivers are using phones at any given time, these drivers are involved in 26 percent of all crashes. This is because 90 percent of crashes involve driver error rather than the environment or mechanical failures.

A lot of the problems caused by phones are a function of how the brain processes information. Although many people believe they are capable of multitasking, that is actually an illusion. The brain cannot actually perform multiple tasks at one time. Instead, the brain switches rapidly back and forth between the two tasks, but it does not do it perfectly. This means that the brain’s visual processing can be reduced by up to 33 percent while on the phone. This can lead to people missing half of everything going on around them while they talk. However, that failure to multitask is not the only human mental quirk that affects this scenario.

The Peltzman Effect

People using hands-free technology may also be falling victim to what economists refer to as the Peltzman effect. The Peltzman effect, which was originally identified by its namesake in the 70s, relates to the fact that people generally have a reasonably constant amount of risk they are willing to take. This can result in regulations that are designed to keep people safe actually having a diminished effect because people are then more willing to take other risks. For instance, people may feel safer when using hands-free technology, so they may be more willing to drive faster or pay less attention to the road. Importantly, economists still debate how much extra risk the Peltzman effect actually encourages people to take. Although numerous studies have found evidence of its existence, the magnitude of its impact varies greatly between each study.

Contact a Virginia Personal Injury Attorney

Our Virginia injury law firm has written extensively about the grave dangers of cell phone use while driving. We have reported on thousands of accidents where victims were tragically killed or severely injured because a driver was paying attention to their smartphone instead of focusing on the road. Our firm has also represented hundreds of clients who were victims of distracted driving accidents, successfully obtaining the financial compensation they deserved for the injuries and losses they suffered.

If you have been injured in a distracted driving crash, contact Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp to schedule a free and confidential consultation with one of our seasoned Virginia car accident attorneys. Call our office today.