While it is not against the law to take your hands off the steering wheel, it’s certainly not a practice that should be recommended. To stay safe, you should keep both hands on the wheel at all times. If you use one hand to drive and the other to answer your phone, at best you are going to have less ability to control your car. At worst, you’ll cause a distracted driving accident.
Cell phone manipulation while driving continues to be a concern, with about 50% of drivers reporting in 2009 they texted while driving. State laws can add to the confusion. Numerous motorists assume driving hands-free should keep them out of any legal trouble. Although hands-free devices are safer, they may not always protect you in a court of law.
If you cause an accident and you were found to be using your phone, you may face:
Keep reading to learn why hands-free is never the way to go
What Are Hands-Free Devices?
Hands-free devices allow drivers to utilize cell phones without making physical contact with the devices or, in some cases, by making minimal contact. An example of this is using the speakerphone feature on your cell phone.
In an effort to increase roadway safety, numerous states are turning to handheld devices and banning holding cells while driving. Studies show that bans may reduce overall phone use, but it is unclear if they reduce the total number of crashes.
Across the US, almost half of the states have bans that prohibit holding a cell while driving. Forty-eight prohibit texting, and the majority restrict cell phone use by drivers under the age of 18.
Many states have laws that prohibit certain types of use in certain situations (Virginia, for example, recently passed a law prohibiting holding a cell in a construction zone), and municipalities may also have their own regulations. Therefore, your age and location determine if you are legally obligated to avoid hands-free cell phone use.
Thirty-eight states and the District of Columbia restrict phone use among teenage drivers. In most states, this means a driver under 18 cannot legally use their phone at all—even with a hands-free device. In other states, there are no restrictions.
Currently, states without young driver cell bans include:
- New York
- South Carolina
If you’re a teenager and you feel like you’ve been waiting forever to get your license, using your cell phone while driving is a good way to get it taken away and have to wait even longer.
Adults can safely use hands-free devices as long as they follow their state and municipality rules. However, for your best shot at staying safe, it’s best to keep your eyes and your mind on the road without any distractions. Touching a cell to text, input coordinates, and complete other actions—even with hands-free technology—is still illegal in most states.
While safer, it is important to remember that even a conversation on a hands-free device can be distracting. As a result, drivers may be sued by other parties for intentional negligence.
When a driver causes an accident because of a distraction, he or she can be sued for any compensation for injuries or other damages the other party experienced. This situation applies to numerous instances, as the type of distractions is limitless. Some reasons you may be distracted while driving include:
- A conversation on a hands-free device
- Changing the radio
- Speaking to other passengers
In order for a plaintiff to successfully win a lawsuit, they must convince the courts that the accident was completely or partially due to the distraction. In doing so, the distracted driver is considered intentionally negligent—that is, they have failed to consider their obligation to drive safely.
Your state’s phone in the car law and your conduct will also determine if any further consequences will be pursued.
Distracted Driving Is Deadly
According to the Centers for Disease Control, each day in the United States, approximately 9 people are killed and more than 1,000 are injured in distracted driving accidents. Your life and the lives of others are too valuable to risk losing so you can check a text message.
Hands-free devices allow drivers to increase their awareness, but they don’t eliminate distractions entirely. Know your state laws, always be aware of your surroundings, and turn your cellphone off when you’re behind the wheel.