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April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month in Florida

Distracted driving is a major problem in Florida, with the state highway patrol reporting nearly 40,000 crashes, 33,000 injuries and more than 200 deaths each year can be attributed to drivers who weren’t giving the road their full attention.

As Fort Lauderdale car accident attorneys, we know that distraction comes in many forms, and novice drivers tend to be most vulnerable. The most common distraction, however, is the use of cell phones. As April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month, it’s a good time to debunk some of the more common misconceptions surrounding the combination of cell phones and driving.

Texting behind the wheel gets a lot of attention, but reportedly “safer” alternatives, such as hands-free and voice-to-text options are equally risky. Some might even argue that these technologies are more dangerous because people mistakenly believe they are safe.

New findings released from the National Safety Council indicate that 80 percent of drivers polled indicated that hands-free cell phone devices were safer for behind-the-wheel use than handheld phones. But here’s the reality: In the past several years, nearly three dozen studies have proven that hands-free devices are equally distracting when compared to handheld options.

Drivers may truly believe they are choosing the safer alternative. But here’s why they’re wrong: The brain is physiologically unable to multitask. It is impossible for humans to engage in two activities involving critical thinking at the same time. Think of it this way: You can’t read a book and talk on the phone at the same time.

Safe driving of a motor vehicle requires the same kind of intense brain engagement as reading. Drivers must constantly scan their surroundings, using practically all of their sensory abilities. Talking to someone means that a significant portion of your attention is drawn away, even if you are technically looking at the road in front of you.

It’s somewhat different when you are engaging in a conversation with someone in the vehicle with you because a passenger will at least be able to react to the same visual, audio and other stimuli that you are experiencing. Talking to a person on the phone allows your thoughts to be completely displaced. This is why sometimes after hanging up from a conversation, drivers will realized they missed their turn or their exit or don’t recall the last several miles driven.

Despite the danger, there is not a single state in the country that bans hand-free devices. There are 12 states, and D.C., that forbid the use of handheld phones while behind the wheel. Florida isn’t one of them, but the fact that there is this distinction serves to further perpetuate the myth that hands-free devices are somehow not as bad.

Making matters even worse is that auto manufacturers have begun releasing newer model vehicles that come fully equipped with so-called “infotainment” systems. These have features like voice-to-text, global positioning satellite searches, email access and more available within easy reach on the dashboard.

In an effort to make this month of awareness have a tangible impact, our Fort Lauderdale car accident attorneys would like to encourage all drivers – especially teens and other newly-licensed drivers – to take the National Safety Council’s Pledge to Drive Cell Free.

Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:
National Safety Council poll: 8 in 10 drivers mistakenly believe hands-free cell phones are safer, April 1, 2014, National Safety Council

More Blog Entries:
Florida Troopers Crack Down on Distracted Driving With “Staying Alive on I-75”, April 2, 2014, Fort Lauderdale Car Accident Lawyer Blog

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