Updating Facebook While Driving? Is this really necessary?

By Tim O’Hare

Distracted driving caused accidents claiming more than 5,500 lives in 2009. At least 30 states across the country have banned the use of cell phones and hand held devices behind the wheel. Companies like OnStar and Ford have developed hands-free calling systems for use in cars, but the question has yet to be answered as to whether or not systems like Ford SYNC and OnStar’s Hands-Free Facebook access, which is available in some Chevy models, reduce distracted driving or add to it.

While a driver’s hands may be free when making a hands-free call or text, their cognitive devices are still distracted. Their eyes may be on the road, but there is wide speculation that drivers using hands-free devices are unable to respond appropriately in traffic situations. Drivers only have one brain, and if a driver’s cognition is tied up with a phone call or text, they cannot be fully focused on the road at the same time.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has yet to release a statement regarding the use of hands-free devices while driving. The agency has, however, begun a study to determine whether hands-free devices distract a driver’s cognitive abilities. Ray LaHood, Transportation Secretary, said a determination will be made on whether or not even hands-free devices will be banned while driving after the agency concludes its investigation.

In 2008, the American Automobile Association (AAA), released a statement that hands-free devices provide drivers with a false sense of security. AAA studies show the use of a cell phone while driving increases a driver’s risk of crashing by up to four times. According to Peter Kissinger, CEP of the AAA Foundation, the use of a hands-free device does not decrease the risk of crashing as it “impairs your reaction time to critical events and increases your crash risk about the same as if you were using a hand-held phone.”

While the use of handheld devices or even hands-free devices haven’t been banned in your area, don’t be deceived, the use of cell phones in any form while driving does impair your driving ability.

If you have been seriously injured or lost a family member in an accident caused by distracted driving, contact The Law Offices of Tim O’Hare to speak with a Dallas personal injury attorney.