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Arnold & Itkin LLP Truck Accident Blog2019JuneAre Hands-Free Devices Making Cell Phone Use Safer in the Trucking Industry?

Are Hands-Free Devices Making Cell Phone Use Safer in the Trucking Industry?

Across the trucking industry, drivers are turning to hands-free devices to make cell phones safer in their cab. Some recent data has revealed that hands-free cellular device use is enabling truck drivers to adapt to other dangerous driving habits. Data collected by Lytx, a company that analyzes fleet safety through video telematics, has recently released a new report which suggests that drivers are distracted despite adopting the use of hands-free devices while in their cab.

The company examined how drivers behave when they are distracted, and what was distracting them during critical moments on the road. It found that many drivers who allow themselves to engage in one high-risk behavior also take other risks at the same time. Lytx determined that about 23 percent of drivers it observed engage in multiple distractions at the same time. Notably, Kyle Warlick, an analyst from Lytx, told Fleet Owner that drivers were most often distracted while using a hands-free device in their cab.

“It was typically one additional distracted behavior—and it was usually when they were using a hands-free device,” said Warlick. “A thing that a lot of people don’t think about is if you’re using a hands-free device, talking on that phone, and you’re eating something, you’re kind of compounding the risk—even though you’re being safe using your hands-free device to free up your hands to do other things.”

So, even though drivers think they are being safe by using a hands-free device, they are opening their thought process to even more distractions. According to Warlick, talking on a hands-free device added a 100 percent increase to a driver’s risk because of compounding factors of distraction.

Other discoveries by Lytx include:

  • Hands-free device use increased by 27 percent in 2018
  • Drivers using hands-free devices were distracted at a rate of 10 percent more
  • Risky behavior involving handheld cellphones increased by 13 percent

Why Is Talking on Hands-Free Devices Distracting?

In 2017, distracted driving claimed the lives of 3,166 people in the United States. Psychology helps to explain why devices designed for distraction-free driving can make the problem they are attempting to solve even worse. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention groups distracted driving into three main categories: visual, manual, and cognitive. When a person is distracted, it does not mean that their eyes are not on the road. Cognitive distractions occur when a person is looking at the road but also focusing on something else such as a conversation on a hands-free device.

In a comment to Lytx, Dr. Nancy Grugle said that "Just because a driver’s eyes are on the road doesn’t mean they’re not distracted. Cognitive distractions can significantly impair a driver’s ability to process information in the driving environment."

Dr. Grugle emphasized the following dangers of cognitive distraction:

  • Perceptual narrowing: a type of tunnel vision in which a driver only looks ahead an ignores their periphery
  • Inattention blindness: a failure to notice something that a driver should be able to see in front of them
  • Impaired decision-making: a delay in response caused by not focusing on a single task

Hands-Free Devices Are Not Distraction-Free Devices

While using a hands-free device to focus on safety is admirable, it’s important that truck drivers know that these devices do not eliminate the consequences of distraction. Instead, drivers should always pull to the side of the road when they need to use their cellular device. If you’ve suffered from an injury caused by a distracted driver, call our truck accident attorneys today at (888) 490-0442 for a free consultation of your case.

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