Think making a call on a hands-free phone is safe? Think again. A 2012 study by the National Safety Council showed that even using a hands-free device is risky. When talking on the phone, the brain must switch back and forth from the conversation to the road. This decreases awareness and reaction time. While on the phone (hands free or hand held) our attention is on the conversation and we fail to see up to 50% of what is happening in our driving vision. We might miss seeing a pedestrian, a stalled car, or a stop sign. Even though you are looking out the windshield as you drive, you do not identify and process potential hazards as well as when you are not on the phone.
But what about conversations with passengers; how is talking on the phone any different? While passengers can take some of your attention off the road, they are right there with you. They see hazards and respond to them as you drive. The person on the other end of the phone is not aware when a dangerous roadway situation occurs and will not pause or redirect the conversation to draw your attention to a danger ahead.
How can we make good choices and drive more safely in a society where constant phone availability is expected?
Turn your phone to silent or do not disturb while driving. This still allows you to use emergency features such as 911 when needed, but incoming calls, texts, and notifications do not take your concentration from the road.
Have your passenger take the phone. Not comfortable with a silent phone? Many RVers travel with a companion. Allow your passenger to manage your phone while you drive. If something important comes up, you can pull over and return the call or answer the text when it is safe to do so. Nothing is immediately more important that driving safely.
Install a call and text blocking app. Call and text blocking apps allow you manually turn off calls and texts while driving. Some will even send a message to the caller that you are currently behind the wheel and will call or text them when you are stopped.
Links for Further Study:
National Safety Council Distracted Driving Research
National Safety Council Passenger Safety rights