Rethinking Hands-Free Devices In Line with UN Global Road Safety Week

The United Nations 7th Global Road Safety Week is in full swing, and here at LaneLight, we are undeniably dedicated to the cause. The initiative, which runs from May 15 to 21 this year, aims to raise awareness of road traffic injuries and fatalities and their ever-rising statistics. A cause akin to ours, this initiative looks to address the leading causes of fatalities arising from road traffic injuries.

In this article, we seek to highlight the close connection between the use of devices while driving, how they take the top spot in terms of culpability in causing road accidents, and whether or not hands-free devices offer a safer alternative when you need to take that all-important call.

Distracted driving is a major issue, responsible for numerous accidents and fatalities each year worldwide. According to a Forbes article, 3,142 people died in collisions involving distracted driving across the US in 2020. This included 396 fatalities in which a cell phone was used at the time of the crash, the most common source of distraction. These and others take the driver’s attention away from the road during crucial moments– although hands-free devices are thought to reduce driver distraction by keeping their eyes on the road, are they really the solution?

In the same article by Forbes, which details distracted driving statistics from 2020 to 2023, cell phone use is branded a significant distraction, dramatically increasing the ongoing risk of accidents. The article notes that sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for at least 5 seconds. Since accidents can happen in the blink of an eye, that’s 5 seconds too many.

Under normal circumstances, at 55 mph, it takes about 200 feet to come to a stop. Those 5 seconds are nowhere near as menial as one might think and can actually move you a further 300 feet.

The question remains whether hands-free devices that allow the driver to change music or take voice-command phone calls are a safe alternative. They certainly reduce the time involved with looking down onto the dashboard looking for your phone or clicking on the radio player trying to find the music you like; however, the problem remains that it takes the driver’s attention away from the road and redirects it towards other activities, creating a dangerous situation.

According to this year’s edition of the initiative under the theme #RethinkMobility, the UN’s Global Plan for the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2021-2030 is an ambitious target to reduce road traffic deaths and injuries by 50% by 2030.

It highlights a solution to the problem, putting forward that the global transport system has a role in mitigating road traffic injuries and fatalities. The plan further states that all arms should take cohesive action to ensure safer roads, vehicles and behaviours and improve emergency care.

Regarding safer road behaviours, hands-free devices while driving can still pose a significant threat to pedestrians and other road users’ safety. It was found that drivers who used hands-free devices were significantly less focused on the road and, as a result, were more likely to miss important visual cues, such as traffic signs, signals and pedestrians. 

And while hands-free devices may be a more convenient way to stay connected while driving, they do not fully remove the danger of being distracted. The best way to avoid this risk is to avoid using electronic devices while driving altogether. If a phone call comes in, the prescribed and safest action is to wait until you reach your destination or pull over when it is safe.

LaneLight is fully committed to the safety of all road users and is proud to support the UN’s Global Road Safety Week campaign.

A Safer Way Home.