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Study: Hands-free devices are still a distraction to Tennessee drivers

Though hands-free devices are marketed as a safe alternative, a study shows that is not necessarily the case.

Every year, thousands of people in Tennessee experience a car accident due to a distracted driver. According to the Tennessee Department of Safety & Homeland Security, last year there were 22,960 accidents associated with the behavior, which represents an increase over the 21,052 incidents recorded for 2014.

Given the amount of accidents that occur in this state and across the country, some technology companies have made an effort to reduce cellphone distractions through making hands-free options. However, a recent study points out that these devices may not be safe.

The study

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety conducted a number of experiments to evaluate how several types of distractions affect a driver. Participants in the study were analyzed in a laboratory setting, behind the wheel and/or while using a driving simulator. The distractions they encountered included the following:

  • Interacting with passengers
  • Listening to the radio or to an audiobook
  • Talking on a handheld phone
  • Talking using a hands-free phone
  • Using a talk-to-text email system

Researchers used several factors to determine how drivers were cognitively affected in areas such as how long it took them to hit the brakes, how their eyes or head moved, what kind of brain waves they emitted and their reaction times.

The results

Perhaps one of the most important findings was that using the talk-to-text email system - a hands-free system - created the highest level of cognitive distraction of the six factors studied. Further, there was little difference between drivers using a handheld or hands-free device.

In summation, the study clearly illustrates that hands-free devices are not free from risk. Using them still forces a driver to focus on something in addition to what is happening on the road, presenting a dangerous situation.

Tennessee laws

Tennessee is one of several states that incorporates hands-free devices into its distracted driving laws intended to prevent motor vehicle accidents. Currently, no novice drivers - which are those who have either a learner's permit or intermediate license - are permitted to use handheld or hands-free devices while driving. The same law applies to bus drivers. There is also a texting ban in place for anyone operating a vehicle in Tennessee.

Clearly, there is much work to be done if distracted driving is to be eliminated. In addition to cellphone use, there are a number of other tasks that can distract a driver, such as eating behind the wheel, grooming or using a navigation system. Spreading awareness about the very real dangers associated with this behavior is one way to put an end to unnecessary accidents.

The Memphis, Tennessee law firm Rosenblum & Reisman, PC has represented many families who have been devastated by drunk and distracted drivers. Having seen such devastation, the firm's attorneys regularly urge their clients and friends to refrain from any activity that would distract them from having 100 percent focus on the road and the traffic around them. Anyone who has concerns about this issue should consult with a personal injury attorney in Tennessee.