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Hands-free devices are not free from danger

Photo provided by UFG
Photo provided by UFG
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Distracted driving awareness has long focused on the evils of texting and driving. Unfortunately, this has also contributed to the increase in hands-free devices and apps. As a culture, our belief that we can multitask during our commute or while we’re stuck in traffic gives us the false impression that the hands-free method is safe, but that is far from the truth.

The National Safety Council (NSC) reports it has compiled several research studies and reports that used a variety of research methods, comparing driver performance while using hand-held phones and hands-free phones. The results? All of the studies show hands-free devices offer no safety benefit when driving as compared to hand-held phones.

An alarming statistic also comes from proprietary research conducted for United Fire Group (UFG) Insurance, reflecting a common belief among commercial drivers: 84 percent of drivers with a commercial driver’s license (CDL), say using hand-held phones should be considered distracted driving, but only 30 percent say using hands-free phones should be considered distracted driving.

So what can be done to help change the idea that hands-free devices are safe? Brian Peck, assistant vice president and loss control audit manager at UFG Insurance says education is a must, particularly in industries where commercial drivers spend their workday behind the wheel.

“The cell phone culture is so embedded in our daily activities that education is essential to both business owners and employees to help understand the dangers of using cell phones when driving,” says Peck. “One of the biggest challenges in changing behavior is the belief that hands-free cell phone use does not cause cognitive distraction. Studies have shown that drivers using cell phones, whether hands-free or hand-held, fail to see up to 50 percent of the information in their driving environment.”

Peck suggests business owners start with an education program for employees, along with a distracted driving policy that employees must agree to and sign. Most importantly, companies need to set an example across all levels.

“Top management is the key to begin with changing behavior of employees,” says Peck. “Management should lead by example and not use cell phones when driving. Management should also encourage changes in work routines and protocols to prevent use of cellphones while driving.”

For more statistics, information and educational content regarding distracted driving, visit ufgworthit.com.

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