Abels & Annes

Hands-free phones may be no safer in reducing the number of Chicago car accidents

A report by the National Safety Council, which utilized more than 30 studies regarding the dangers of distracted driving, has found that hands-free cell phone use is not safer than using a hand-held device.

Our Chicago injury attorneys frequently report on the dangers of distracted driving and the use of cell phones while behind the wheel. But authorities have concentrated on the dangers of hand-held phone use, while permitting the use of hands-free devices. The hands-free devices are permitted under both Chicago’s cell phone ordinance and an Illinois law that bans cell phone use in school zones and construction sites.
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“Cell phone use while driving has become a serious public health threat,” said Janet Froetscher, NSC president and CEO. “Several states and municipalities have passed legislation allowing hands-free devices while driving. These laws give the false impression that hands-free phones are a safe alternative, when the evidence is clear they are not. Understanding the distraction of the brain will help people make the right decision and put down their cell phones while driving.”

The NSC reports that motorists continue to ignore the dangers of cell phone use while driving, which includes visual, manual and cognitive impairment. And hands-free devices offer no solution, even as they are touted as a lesser evil by some safety advocates. Currently all state laws allow for the use of hands-free devices, which could be providing motorists with a false sense of security.

Cognitive ability is still impaired by talking on a hands-free device as the mind focuses, listens and responds to the conversation. The problem remains the myth that the brain is able to multitask. Human brains perform tasks sequentially by switching between tasks. The brain does not perform multiple tasks at the same time.

The human brain works in a four-step process, Select, Process, Encode (create memory) and Store. When the brain is overworked, the encoding process is affected. Instead of creating a memory, the brain filters out information due to overload. The driver is unaware that he or she is missing information with which to make good driving decisions. And the result is frequently an accident.

The NSC reports that hands-free drivers are less likely to see:
-High and low objects of relevance.
-Visual cues.
-Exits, red lights and stop signs.
-Navigation signals.
-Content of objects.

Additionally, hands-free users also suffer from “inattention blindness,” which drastically narrows their scope of vision. In fact, just listening to a phone conversation decreased by 37 percent the activity in the portion of the brain that perceives movement — it also decreased activity in the area of the brain that processes visual information. As a consequence, cell phone users risk inattention blindness, slower reaction and response times and problems staying in their own lane.


The National Safety Council reports:

Motor Vehicle Crashes: More than 30,000 people are killed and 2 million injured in traffic accidents each year. Distracted driving, speeding and alcohol are the leading causes of serious and fatal crashes.

Distracted Driving: 28 percent of all traffic accidents involved distracted driving in 2008, resulting in 1.6 million accidents and 645,000 injures.

Cell Phone Use: Cell phone users were four times more likely to be involved in an accident. Eleven percent of motorists are talking on a cell phone at any given time. In all, 81 percent of motorists admit to using a cell phone while driving.

Text Messaging: 18 percent of drivers admit to text messaging. Teen drivers (36 percent) and Gen Y drivers (39 percent) are most likely to text and drive.

If you have been in an accident, the Chicago injury lawyers at Abels & Annes offer free and confidential appointments to discuss your rights. Call (866) 99-ABELS. There is no fee unless you win.