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Hands-Free Does Not Mean Risk Free

dangers of hands-free driving

In today’s fast-paced world, people use smartphones nearly everywhere they go, often while behind the wheel of their cars. And because nearly all phones now have hands-free or voice-activated features—which companies actively market as promoting “safety”—more and more, people have begun using hands-free smartphones while driving. We have all seen those other drivers on the road who seem to be talking to themselves, when a closer look shows that little Bluetooth device in their ears.

This increasingly common behavior has unfortunately led to a popular myth that it is much safer to use hands-free smartphone features while driving than it is to use the hand-operated features. Some also assume that, as long as they use these hands-free features, they have greatly reduced, or even completely eliminated, the well-documented risks of using a cell phone while driving.

But another study released today shows that this is a very dangerous misconception. Research conducted by the University of Utah found that voice-activated smartphone features, specifically, Apple’s “Siri”, can be just as distracting as hand-operated features. A companion study found that even hands-free entertainment systems installed in modern cars can be very distracting, despite that automakers assure customers that these provide “safe” ways to stay connected while driving. These are just the latest in a string of studies that show that hands-free feature do not provide much safety benefit, if any.

Dangerous cell phone use was a major issue in a recent Greyhound bus crash case Ryan Zehl and I tried and won against the company. We proved that the bus driver had talked on his cell phone 17 times the night of the crash while he was driving a bus full of passengers. Due to this reckless conduct, he crashed the bus and severely injured our client and many others on-board. The jury awarded over $18,000,000, the largest verdict against Greyhound in its history and the largest motor vehicle accident verdict in Texas that year.

Remember: Cell phone use while driving is extremely dangerous—no matter what kind of phone is being used. Hands-free does not mean risk free.