The Truth About Hands-Free Technology and Safety

In today’s world, the use of a mobile phone is becoming more like a daily routine. People are always waiting for that email from work or a text message from a visiting relative. Mobile phones have been on a steady technological evolution ever since they came out. Their scope of productivity gets wider with each passing day. A newer model always boasts of a feature that was absent in the previous model, this makes it harder for most of us to stay away from our phones.

From apps to video calling and cameras that can complete with most DSLR models, phones are advancing at rapid speeds. And this advancement is keeping us glued to our phones.

London bus. Image by Christopher Burns on unsplash.
London bus. Image by Christopher Burns on unsplash.

Among the big risks of mobile phones is causing accidents. A recent RAC report showed an increase in the number of drivers who admit to using a mobile phone while behind the wheel; from 8% in 2014 to 31% in 2016. The temptation to glance at a blinking phone is clearly on the rise and drivers are giving in to this distraction despite the risks involved.

A different report from the Department for Transport states that between 2013 and 2015, on average, 24 people per year were killed in road traffic accidents in which the driver was using a mobile phone up from 17 people in 2012. It is even more important to note that phones are usually seized in serious accidents only. The number of car accident related litigation and casualties from less serious accidents is definitely high and growing.

As a countermeasure to reduce this worrying trend, governments all over the world are imposing stricter penalties to drivers who use their mobile phones while driving. Unfortunately, in a survey conducted by the British charity, Brake and Direct Line, an insurance company; it was discovered that whilst the use of hand-held phones when driving was banned in 2003, the proportion of UK drivers breaking this rule only dropped from 36% to 13% between 2006 and 2014.

Starting from the 1st of March 2017 a driver who uses their handset whilst behind the wheel in the UK will be fined 200.00 and six penalty points added to their driver’s license. The only moment in which the law allows the use a hand-held phone while driving is when a driver needs to call emergency services and there is nowhere safe to stop.

in the car. Photo by Sheng Li on Unsplash
In the car. Photo by Sheng Li on Unsplash

Facts about the use of Hands-Free Phones while driving

Currently, it is legal to use a hands-free handset while driving any vehicle. Many car manufacturers have taken safety steps towards this issue and developed Head-Up Display (HUD) technology that displays communication information on a larger screen. Despite this being marketed as a safe communication method, it still requires the driver’s interaction for various tasks like calling and texting. Fitting ear plugs and adjusting of microphones in hands-free devices are some of the activities that constitute driver distraction. Rule 149 of the Highway Code highlights the dangers of using any handheld or hands-free device and recommends they be switched off until the driver is in a safe place to stop.

Using a hands-free phone helps curb the temptation of performing other tasks on the phone after completing what felt so important. Younger drivers are the most affected by mobile phone use. y Younger drivers take selfies and photos of their speedometer to post on social media. This amounts to an even longer distraction that could easily lead to a road accident.

A study carried out by the University of Utah on its students showed that they had a slower reaction time when talking on a hand-held phone than when using a hands-free device. The study concluded that hands-free driving allows 50% more processing of visual information than when using a handheld device. The US National Safety Council also supports this data stating that up to 50 percent of driver distractions can be bypassed if they are looking through the windshield.

Another report by the Department for Transport entitled “Reported Road Casualties Great Britain: 2016,” stated that a driver’s reaction when using a hands-free phone is usually much slower than when the driver has a blood alcohol level of 85 milligrams per 100 milliliters of blood. While this is a worrying report, using a hands-free phone has proved to be slightly safer than using a hand-held phone.


In many situations, drivers on the go have to receive information regarding their route and destination. The need to keep communicating forces most drivers to have a mobile phone on them at all times. It’s advisable keep the phone in the glove box to avoid any temptations and improve safety. The consequences of an accident are not worth the convenience of communicating while driving. However, if a phone must be used while driving, hands-free devices are the safer option.

Melissa Thompson
Melissa Thompson writes about a wide range of topics, revealing interesting things we didn't know before. She is a freelance USA Today producer, and a Technorati contributor.