You’re driving down the freeway, and your wife is telling you about an upsetting incident that happened at work. You’re trying to listen attentively and be supportive – but you’re also trying to focus on the road. Can you do both at once? How does your conversation with your spouse affect your safety behind the wheel?
The answer depends – in large part – on your wife’s location. If she’s sitting beside you in the passenger seat, your chances of getting into a crash are considerably lower than if you’re talking on the phone – even if you’re using hands-free technology. In today’s post, we explain why hands-free calling isn’t as safe as people assume.
Two different responses
If you and your wife are driving together, you both have the advantage of being able to see the same road conditions. If a reckless driver suddenly cuts you off, you’ll both take note and naturally pause the conversation until conditions become safer.
However, if you’re having the same conversation with your wife using hands-free calling, she won’t see the swerving vehicle ahead of you. You’ll be less likely to explain what’s happening on the road and request a pause in the conversation. On the flip side, if she notices your contribution to the conversation is waning, she’ll be more likely to compensate by talking more – which will distract you further.
Your brain is a complex, sophisticated organ. Nonetheless, it’s unable to focus on two tasks at once. And when two stimuli are competing for attention while you’re driving, it puts you in a risky position. In fact, drivers who talk on the phone just 50 minutes per month are five times more likely to get into a crash.
Many people think of distracted driving as any behavior that takes your hands off the wheel or your eyes off the road. In reality, any activity that takes your attention away from driving also counts as distracted driving.
It’s important to be alert to the myriad factors that could impair your ability to drive safely. If your phone conversation can wait until you reach your destination, the decision to postpone it could save your life.