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THIS, my friends, is a classic case of driver distraction!…
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that 10% of drivers are using a phone. Source
Eager to be communicating more safely in my vehicle, I waited patiently for my headset to arrive (it took a month). Then, I started gabbing “the hands-free way” while driving.
My conclusion: How is this really any safer?
I mean, I still have to DIAL the phone with my fingers, and ANSWER a ringing phone with my hands, and HANG UP the phone. My hands-free headset doesn’t have a way to do that, does yours?
And once I’m chatting the hands-free way, I still have to put the phone somewhere. Unfortunately, I find myself still holding it in my hand!
So what’s the purpose?
I guess it’s just the fact that I don’t have to always have my phone hand UP TO MY EAR. Yeah, with a hands-free headset, my phone can now be resting comfortably on my lap or simply held in either hand. The problem with this is that my hands are still serving dual-purposes… like holding my phone WHILE grasping onto the steering wheel!
Is this really any better?
Call me crazy, but I’m not quite seeing the benefit that comes from solely plugging in a headset to your cellphone while driving.
What am I missing?…
It Seemed Like A Good Idea
At first I thought I could just program various numbers to dial automatically whenever I speak a particular phrase out loud, eliminating my need to actually DIAL phone numbers. But then I realized that I’d still have to press a button while I’m shouting that phrase!
And there’s still not a way to answer a ringing phone hands-free… or to end a call the hands-free way. Not with my phone anyway.
Driver Distractions Still Exist
In my humble opinion, the “distraction” part comes simply when you are trying to do something — anything at all — while you are driving. This includes: trying to concentrate on what people are saying to you on the phone, eating french fries or quarter pounders… even addressing the needs of your child(ren) at the same time that you are driving. If you’re focusing on anything other than how you are driving and how the people around you are driving, then you’re “distracted” and that’s just not safe.
But back to cell phones…
The truth is, with a cell phone in use behind the wheel (hands-free or not), you’re more likely to venture into that “automatic pilot mode”. You know, where you literally zone-out and function more by habit and routine than by making any decisions deliberately.
Yes, you’re fully conscious and aware of your surroundings. Yet when you get to your destination, if you stop and think about it, you don’t recall a thing about how you actually got there. That’s what cell phone use behind the wheel does to me.
And that can’t be good.
I don’t think any hands-free headset can solve that, do you?
The Survey Says…
Ah-ha!… It seems I wasn’t too far off base with my above theories regarding hands-free cell phone use.
Plus, other studies have found that distracted driver “fixes” don’t work.
In fact, things like headsets and voice-activated dialing actually result in longer dialing times than for hand-held phones, which offsets the benefit of keeping both hands on the wheel! Add to that the time that you have to take your eyes off the road to begin or end a phone call, and headsets no longer seem like the cure-all they were first made out to be.
What About Hands-Free Satellite Radio?
The act of taking your eyes off the road for the purpose of engaging specific features goes far beyond cell phones…
For example, in the short time that we’ve owned XM Satellite Radio, I’ve noticed a greater number of instances where Jim seems to be driving like he’s intoxicated or something!
You know… accelerated starts, abrupt stops, and what I like to call “bumper car driving” — where you try to keep your vehicle between the lines WHILE you’re trying to do something else at the same time (like dialing a number on your cell phone or trying to hone in on another radio station on Satellite Radio)!
The fact of the matter is: he’s distracted. He’s taking his eyes off the road for the sole purpose of focusing on this cool new gadget.
JIM: “There are so many neat things on XM!”
LYNNETTE: “Yeah… too bad that most of them require that you actually have to look at the screen!”
Yep, the need for hands-free goes far beyond cell phone use and into the realm of ALL electronic gadgets which might be used while driving! Consider these: PDA’s… pagers… even laptops! (I’ve seen it! For that matter, what about hands-free shaving kits and mascara-putter-on’ers?)
…now that’s sounds like a classic Bud Light Real (Wo)men of Genius Commercial, doesn’t it?
Are these drivers any less safe because they’re using their hands to hold something other than the steering wheel? I don’t know…
…try going hands-free with your cell phone, then YOU decide.
I got my first computer in 1986 and immediately started writing, saving documents, and organizing my entire life on it. Thus began my love affair with gadgets and all things tech. I built my first website in 1998 in old-school HTML code — before websites were "a thing". Blogs weren't invented yet. It was the same year that Google was born. My husband and I created TheFunTimesGuide.com in 2004 — before YouTube, Twitter, Reddit, and Mashable were launched. That was the year Facebook started and 'blog' was the Word of the Year according Merriam-Webster. Ever since then, anytime a new electronic gadget hits the market… I have to have it. (My husband's impulsive nature to try out every new tech gadget invented is even worse than mine!) When I'm not trying out fun new tech gadgets, you'll find me at the corner of Good News & Fun Times as publisher of The Fun Times Guide (32 fun & helpful websites).