Loss Control Insights

Myth or Fact: Is It Safe to Use a Hands-Free Device While Driving?

hands free phone call

It’s easy to understand the dangers of taking your hands off the steering wheel or your eyes off the road to pick up a cell phone call or to send a text. But did you know that using an earpiece, speakerphone or Bluetooth device is equally as dangerous?

According to information compiled by the National Safety Council, driving while talking on the phone forces your brain to do two things at the same time. Your brain can’t really multitask; instead, it tries to quickly move between the two tasks: driving and talking. In doing so, your brain gets overloaded and filters some of the info it’s receiving. Because of this filtering, your eyes can miss about half of what is going on in the world outside your vehicle, including red lights, other vehicles and pedestrians. Reaction time is also affected, so even if you see the danger ahead, you may be too slow in responding. While your hands may be on the steering wheel, your mind is not free to concentrate on driving safely.

Furthermore, the TV show “Myth Busters” found that driving while using a hands-free device is as dangerous as drunk driving. Later simulations compared drivers using hands-on and hands-free driving. Their results showed that both types of cell phone use are equally dangerous; only one driver in each study passed the driving test. The remainder of the drivers in both tests failed by going the wrong way or by crashing.

Why Should You Worry?
Of course you are concerned for the safety of your employees when they are on the road, and for the vehicles they drive. You also need to consider how to keep your company safe from the risk of liability. If an accident leads to a lawsuit, legal discovery can uncover the employee’s cell phone records, including the location and time of any voice calls and texts they may have made. Your company cell phone policy and enforcement (or lack of enforcement) of that policy can also become part of a legal record.

What Can You Do?
You’re not on the road with your employees, so you can’t watch their every move. However, there are ways to protect your drivers, your vehicles and your company.

  1. Develop and enforce a companywide distracted driving policy as part of your fleet safety program that employees must understand and agree to abide by. It should be clear that they can’t use a hand-held cell phone or hands-free device while the vehicle is moving, and recognize both the dangers and the penalties for non-compliance. Be sure to have each employee sign a statement agreeing to the terms.

  2. Enforce compliance using technology to gather evidence of any deviation from your company policies. Examples include attached devices and apps that prevent Bluetooth from connecting or that block the ability to use the phone when the vehicle is moving, and dash cams that capture video of any banned behaviors.