Hands-free Cellphones Might Be Legal, But Are They Safe? - Diamond and Diamond Lawyers
  • Friday, 23 June 2017

Hands-free Cellphones Might Be Legal, But Are They Safe?

#AskRobertGabor

Distracted driving is a serious highway safety issue. According to the Ontario provincial police, distracted driving caused more fatalities in vehicle crashes last year than alcohol and drug impaired driving or speeding. Talking on a cellphone using a hands-free device might be legal under the law, but according to statistics reported by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, drivers using such devices are four times more likely to be involved in an injury-causing accident than drivers who put their phones away while behind the wheel of a moving vehicle. 

The problem posed by drivers who are distracted

The RCMP definition of distracted driving refers to the issue of compromised judgment caused by a motorist focusing on an activity other than driving and paying attention to conditions and situations occurring on the road. In comparing it to impaired driving, the RCMP includes the following among distracting activities:

  • Cellphone conversations
  • Texting
  • Use of a GPS device
  • Eating or drinking
  • Personal grooming
  • Adjusting a vehicle’s audio system
  • Smoking

These and other distractions cause a driver to suffer from judgment impairment and slowed reaction time which can contribute to causing an accident.

Hands-free devices and the law in Ontario

Viewing display screens on cellphones and other devices while driving is against the law in Ontario as is operating hand-held devices, such as cellphones, while engaging in conversation or other activity. Fines of up to $1,000 and three demerit points can be imposed for a violation of the law.

The law does not punish drivers who use a hands-free device while talking on their cellphones. This could lead some motorists to believe that headsets or other hands-free devices make it safe to talk on a cellphone while driving. Unfortunately, the distraction is not eliminated by not holding a phone while talking on it.

The brain and distracted driving

Using a hands-free device to talk on a cellphone might reduce the risks associated with a driver not having both hands on the steering wheel or by taking his or her eyes off the road, but it does not reduce cognitive distraction. According to at least one study, hands-free devices do not eliminate cognitive distraction and do not make driving while talking on a cellphone safer.

According to the study, people who believe they can multitask and do two or more things at the same time simply do not understand how the human brain works. When a person is talking on a cellphone while driving, it causes the brain to toggle between separate tasks. Because the brain performs this switching action so quickly, people mistakenly believe they are focusing on two things at the same time. The study results show drivers can miss up to 50 percent of what is going on around them while talking on their phones.

The inability of drivers to process what their eyes are looking at as they scan the road in front of their vehicles is known as “inattention blindness.” It is caused by the brain being unable to process the flow of information being sent to it by a person’s eyes. The reason the brain cannot process the visual information is simply because it is busy or distracted processing the conversation the driver is engaging in on the phone. The best way to make a cellphone safe while driving is to put it away until the vehicle is safely parked.

Personal injury lawyers seeking compensation for victims of distracted driving accidents

The skilled and compassionate personal injury lawyers at Diamond and Diamond have offices located throughout Ontario to provide representation to victims injured in accidents caused by distracted drivers. Call our 24/7 personal injury hotline at 1-800-567-HURT or visit our website to speak to one of our team members. Even if a driver causing an accident was using a hands-free device, let one of our lawyers review your case to determine if the person was at fault. We offer free consultations and case evaluations.

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