Staying safe: Technology in the car
The UK’s laws against using a handheld device in the car are very clear; you shouldn’t. However, in an increasingly digital age, where technological developments are being made by the day, how can you keep connected to your vital bits of battery and circuit board without breaking any laws?
So far, hands-free has been the way to go when in the car. Without needing to remove your hands from the wheel or gear-stick, you physically can’t grab your phone to respond to a call or text, or search for some information. This way, your eyes remain on the road and your hands keep a firm grip on your vehicle.
Many phones are now made with voice recognition technology as a standard. Through this, as long as your phone is within earshot, you can verbally issue commands to your lovely robot assistant (Siri, Google, Cortana, Alexa etc. depending on your preference). Hopefully, your phone will hear and comprehend your orders from its nesting spot on the passenger seat or in that little gap in the centre console, and do as it’s told. It’s true that this sort of technology has come a very long way, especially in the last 5 years or so, but often it still leaves plenty of room for development in the form of responses, functionality and even basic understanding of commands.
With the passing of time and computer advancements, cars themselves have adapted to the functions and technology of the mobile phone, from the bulky Carphone of the 80’s through to the sleek, Bluetooth powered, integrated units you see as an option in almost all cars of the last 5 years. The addition of monitors into vehicles for things such as satellite navigation, media playback and hands free calling has meant that there is more technology than ever at work to both help and entertain us while we’re driving. The operation of these technologies, though, is often done using buttons or dials on the centre console and steering wheel or touchscreens, so how safe are they really when we’re driving?
That isn’t the only issue with hands free, either. Think, for example, of taking a hands free call. When driving, any contact can get hold of you while you’re technically operating heavy machinery and concentrating on hundreds of other drivers doing just the same. Add into this existing concentration a new point of interest jostling for brain power – someone contacting you and you answering, comprehending, forming a response and responding – and next thing you know you’re doing two jobs, each requiring a lot of concentration, happening at the same time. Suddenly the idea of having to share driving with other tasks seems far more detrimental than it has appeared previously.
Evidence for arguments against hands free equipment in cars has had a much stronger presence of late. Dr Graham Hole, senior lecturer in psychology at the University of Sussex, said the research laid bare the “popular misconception that using a mobile phone while driving is safe as long as the driver uses a hands-free phone.” He also added: “Other studies have suggested that phone conversations in a car are more off-putting than listening to the radio or talking to a passenger.” It is seemingly becoming more apparent that there is little difference between using a handheld device such as a mobile phone in the car and using hands free technology.
Following on from this new research and its findings, there have been calls from many figures of note to put hands free equipment in the same bracket as handheld devices. Kevin Clinton, from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, said he was not surprised by the study’s findings and also called for a law banning the use of hands-free phones in cars. He said: “Sadly, people continue to lose their lives because of drivers who are using a mobile phone. This can so easily be avoided by all drivers switching off their phones while driving, and only checking messages once they have stopped in a safe place.”
This view has been supported by national charities as well. Alice Bailey, from road safety charity Brake, says “We need one clear law. All phones, hand-held and hands-free, need to be banned in cars – the only safe phone is one that is switched off. How important is any phone conversation that lives are lost?”
It seems that even with the technological advancements that have been made to keeping drivers safe there is still a long way to go to truly ensuring that there aren’t any distractions or concentration problems for anyone getting behind the wheel.
Have a look at this infographic for some interesting facts about hands free driving:
What do you think about hands free driving? Have you had any good or bad experiences with the technology? Can you think of any other options or alternatives? Let us know in the comments!