By now, most—if not all—drivers in Mississippi should know how dangerous it is to physically manipulate your phone while driving. Whether tapping out a text, scrolling through your latest social media feed, or trying to take a video from behind the wheel, driving while holding a phone is never safe.
For a problem created by technology, technology might also have a solution. Hands-free devices and settings are advertised as alternatives to traditional phone use behind the wheel, allowing drivers to keep their hands and eyes on the road. How often, in reality, do these devices and settings work to stop accidents from occurring? Have accident rates declined since these devices were made mainstream? Below, we’ll attempt to answer these important questions and more.
What Is Hands-Free Technology?
Hands-free technology can be defined as technology that uses a variety of features to allow users to communicate without the use of their hands. Most hands-free technology is developed to be used by drivers when operating a motor vehicle, but some people also use it to multitask throughout their day.
Examples of hands-free technology include:
- Bluetooth systems that read your incoming text messages aloud through the car’s speakers
- Phone mounts that allow you to use global positioning system (GPS) navigation without having to physically pick up your phone
- Systems that use voice commands to answer incoming calls, speak, and hang up
- Artificial intelligence (AI) assistants like iPhone’s Siri or Amazon’s Alexa
Hands-free technology and devices can be quite useful. Mississippi state law prohibits the physical use of hand-held cellphones or other mobile devices for things like reading, writing, or sending text messages. The law also explicitly prohibits physically accessing social media while driving.
Mississippi drivers are permitted to use hands-free and voice-operated technology to do things like read texts, send messages, and answer phone calls, though. There are also situations in which you are permitted to physically use a phone, including if you need to access or send information regarding:
- An emergency
- Weather alerts
- Messages for the navigation or operation of your vehicle
If you are caught texting and driving in Mississippi, you may be ticketed and required to pay a $100 fine. Consequences may be much more serious in situations where texting and driving (using a hand-held device) led to a car accident that injured or killed another person.
If you have trouble keeping your phone out of your hand, the Mississippi State Department of Health suggests placing your phone in your vehicle’s trunk.
Hands-Free Technology Reduces Accident Rates
Research consistently shows that it is safer to use hands-free technology rather than physically manipulating your phone while driving. This analysis shows that using a hand-held device increases your risk of being involved in an accident by as much as three-and-a-half times that of a driver who is otherwise alert and focused on the road. This same drastic increase in crash risk was not seen with hands-free technology.
If you are using a hands-free device, you are much less likely to engage in secondary behaviors. When you pick up your cellphone to read a text, you might engage in the following secondary behaviors without even thinking about it:
- Reading or replying to text messages other than the one you intended to open
- Opening up social media apps
- Reading notifications
- Checking your email
- Playing a phone game
- Changing or starting music
- Taking pictures or a video
Choosing hands-free technology over hand-held devices is an excellent way to reduce secondary phone behaviors as well as your chances of causing a serious car accident. Hands-free devices also reduce the amount of manual or physical demands or distractions, making them a safer alternative to traditional approaches to overall phone use behind the wheel.
Additional research found that hand-held cellphone bans prevent 140 fatalities and another 14,000 severe injuries every year. We can thank hands-free technology for an overall 7% decrease in traffic fatalities.
Hands-Free Technology Is Still a Distraction
While using hands-free technology might be less dangerous than physically manipulating your phone while driving, it does not mean that it is wholly risk-free.
There are three main types of distracted driving:
- This type of distraction involves removing one or both of your hands from the wheel, like typing out a message or holding your phone to access GPS navigation.
- When you look away from the road, you are visually distracted. If you look at a phone screen mounted on your dashboard, you are still distracted even though you are not touching your phone.
- A cognitive distraction is anything that takes your mind off driving. If you are thinking about your grocery list or carrying on a conversation over hands-free technology, you are cognitively distracted.
Hands-free technology eliminates the manual distraction concern for drivers who are using their phones, but it does not combat visual or cognitive distractions. Drivers who use hands-free technology might also be under the false impression that they can successfully multitask. In reality, multitasking has been proven to be a myth. What we actually do when we think we are multitasking is rapidly switch our attention back and forth between two different tasks.
You cannot give 100% of your attention to two things at once. Since driving requires all your attention to make sure that you and everyone else arrives safely at the destination, it is safest to keep your phone out of reach and turn off any hands-free technology your phone or vehicle is equipped with.
Were You Injured by a Distracted Driver?
Hands-free technology might reduce accident rates and be less risky than driving with a cellphone in hand, but it does not mean that it is risk-free. If you were injured by a distracted driver, Pittman Roberts & Welsh PLLC can advise you of your options.
We work hard to make sure that all our clients know what their claim is really worth, and how much they’ll need from the insurance company to fully support their recovery. This involves carefully calculating the cost of damages, including medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more.
When you contact us for a free consultation, you’ll have the opportunity to discuss the details and potential merits of your case with a knowledgeable car accident attorney.
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