With modern technological advancements, almost everyone can drive a car, and almost everyone has texted while driving. Any distractions on the road can create a potentially dangerous situation for the individual in the car, other drivers, as well as pedestrians. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2016), every day over eight people are killed, and over a thousand are injured in accidents involving a distracted driver (para. 1). The availability of auto-responses and hands-free devices in some cases can prevent a driver from texting; however, there is a need for more precautions to make sure that drivers will not text.
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The use of an electronic device, especially a cell phone, greatly distracts drivers from the process of driving itself, watching what is going on both on the road and in the surrounding areas. Most notably, texting keeps the driver’s hand from the steering wheel, which is greatly dangerous. Thus, texting while driving affects all three types of skills required for a safe experience – cognitive, manual, and visual.
It is important to note the link that exists between drivers of younger age and their obsession with texting and electronic devices in general. Thus, the widespread behavior within the age group can greatly affect the possibility of an accident. A recent survey conducted by national representatives has shown evidence that under- 25 drivers are much more likely to text and drive. Within the age group of sixteen to twenty-five, almost seventy percent of respondents admitted to their unsafe driving habit.
Such a staggering response can be compared with the fourteen percent of all respondents admitted to texting while driving. Furthermore, while the majority of people with any experience acknowledge the danger of texting while driving, young passengers rarely understand the importance of reporting such incidents (Mayhew, Robertson, Brown, & Vanlaar, 2013, p. 1).
The possibility of a crash despite the use of hands-free devices is often underrated since the technology of in-car voice controls as well as other hands-free devices is relatively new; thus, there is little research conducted on the issue. On the other hand, hands-free texting while driving can also cause distraction and potential accidents. Thus, to put such a traffic safety issue into the perspective of public health, it will be beneficial for investigating previous research on hands-free texting to get to the root of the problem.
Is Hands-Free Texting Safer
Even though the majority of the simulator and observational studies on driving and texting were predominantly linked to cell phone distractions, the results were beneficial for illustrating the effects of distraction in general and with the use of specific hands-free texting devices. For instance, the Canadian study in Calgary was conducted with the involvement of both experienced and inexperienced drivers.
It has shown that the process of visual scanning in the course of using the phone was greatly affected because of them being distracted by the phone. However, there was a contrast between the ways experienced and inexperienced drivers acted. While inexperienced drivers did not change them in speed despite their use of a cell phone, experienced drivers usually slowed down to be more alert of the surrounding environment while they were on the phone.
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Also, there was evidence of the increased lane wandering with novice drivers who were using the cell phone. On the other hand, experienced drivers were also affected by cell phone use – the study found that when being on their phones, the time of their responses and reactions deteriorated and met the levels of beginner drivers (Chisholm, Caird, Lockhart, Teteris, & Smiley, 2006, p. 2354).
Despite the wide research on the topic of driving and texting, very few studies focused on the hands-free devices since the secondary tasks were rarely acknowledged as harmful. However, some studies examining in-vehicle technologies proved that drivers are getting distracted even while listening to the radio (Young, Regan, & Hammer, 2003, p. 6). The study conducted by Schweizer et al. (2013) focused on finding out how hands-free devices can also deteriorate the driver’s focus and attention (p. 4).
The participants were asked to answer simple questions with the yes or no responses and simultaneously push buttons located on the steering wheel, a system that also works with modern in-vehicle technologies. The study found that distracted driving greatly affected the posterior of the brain, the functioning of which is crucial for alertness and attention. Despite the relatively small sample size, the research was successful in confirming the hypothesis that multitasking can greatly compromise the driver’s cognitive functioning.
Thus, when drivers are focused on performing secondary tasks, including hands-free texting using the in-vehicle system, they become distracted and lack focus to look around and see what is happening on the road. Drivers may look on the road without actually seeing what is going on in the driving environment. It was also estimated that texting drivers could fail to see fifty percent of the events occurring on the road.
Should Hands-Free Texting Be Banned
With the wide recognition of dangers associated with driving and texting, it was assumed that secondary tasks like hands-free texting posed no risks. However, as previously mentioned, such logic is flawed. Yager’s study (2013) confirmed that drivers’ responses were affected significantly when they increased their use of hands-free texting technologies (p. 1). Such a conclusion suggested that hands-free texting did not help keep the driver’s eyes on the road.
Thus, even though hands-free texting does put drivers in danger, banning it will not solve the issue since there always be individuals texting behind the wheel. However, there should be raised awareness of the issue within the public sphere as well as in the area of lawmaking. Texting drivers should be held accountable for putting themselves and other participants of traffic into danger. On the other hand, there is a possibility for further advancements in the sphere of hands-free technologies that will lessen the distraction and allow drivers to solve the most urgent issues behind the wheel.
To conclude, hands-free texting while driving has shown to deteriorate drivers’ attention and increase the possibility of an accident. Countries with increased traffic like India banned the use of all electronic devices on the road, including hands-free units, since they negatively affected the risk factor (Bartolacci & Powell, 2013, p. 181). However, there is little to be done with drivers that want to answer urgent calls or texts.
It is important to promote safe driving since school years so that the public is aware of the possible consequences. The sphere of technologies should look further into advancing the hands-free systems in vehicles, offering more options for drivers to stay safe and alert.
Bartolacci, M., & Powell, S. (2013). Advancements and innovations in wireless communications and network technologies. Hershey, PA: Information Science Reference.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2016). Distracted driving. Web.
Chisholm, L., Caird, J., Lockhart, J., Teteris, L., & Smiley, A. (2006). Novice and experienced driving performance with cell phones. Web.
Mayhew, D., Robertson, R., Brown, S., & Vanlaar, W. (2013). Driver distraction and hands-free texting while driving. Web.
Schweizer T., Kan, K., Hung, Y., Tam, F., Naglie, G., & Graham, S. (2013). Brain activity during driving distracts. An immersive fMRI study. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 7(53), 1-11.
Yager, C. (2013). An evaluation of the effectiveness of voice-to-text programs at reducing incidences of distracted driving. College Station, TX: Texas A&M Transportation Institute.
Young, K., Regan, M., & Hammer, M. (2003). Driver distraction: A review of the literature. Web.
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