Distracted Driving: Hands-Free Bluetooth Devices May Be Just as Distracting as Talking on Your Cell Phone


In California, it is illegal for all drivers to use of hand-held cell phones while driving because of the increased risk of accidents. Adult drivers are permitted to use hands-free bluetooth communication devices that allow a driver to talk on a cell phone while still keeping both hands on the wheel. But are hands free communication devices giving California drivers a false sense of security?

Is Bluetooth a Cause of Distracted Driving?

According to a study published in the journal Transportation Research, and conducted by researchers at the University of Sussex, bluetooth devices still pose a distracted driving hazard, despite the fact they are hands-free. In fact, the study found that a conversation of any sort imposes “visual demands,” and that these visual demands interfere with a driver’s visual perception.

In other words, when drivers are talking on the phone, they are visualizing details of the conversation in their mind. As a result, they are less focused on traffic around them and suffer from distraction. Essentially, when a driver is attempting to navigate the road and hold a conversation on the phone, the two tasks are competing for similar processing resources in the brain.

In the study, drivers were divided into two groups. One group performed an “imagery-inducing task” while driving; the other did not. When compared, the group that was not distracted by the imagery-inducing task was faster to respond to road hazards, detected more road hazards, and committed fewer errors involving looking and failing to see oncoming vehicles.

Distracted Driving Caused by Bluetooth & Talking with Others

The conclusion that can be drawn from the study is that talking at all while driving, including chatting with passengers, may pose a distraction. However, the researchers suggest that talking with passengers may be less dangerous than is talking with someone on the phone, as a passenger may help to detect road hazards and is more aware of the driver’s needs.

A person on the phone, on the other hand, has no idea what the driver is facing. While talking with passengers is certainly more enjoyable than is sitting in silence, if road conditions are especially dangerous (e.g. it is raining out, you are traveling on a heavily trafficked road, there are sections of highway under construction, etc.) you should consider focusing your full attention on the road.

Can I Get a Ticket For Being Distracted by Bluetooth?

California law generally prohibits drivers under age 18 from using any cell phone include Bluetooth devices while driving. A driver under age 18 may be cited with an infraction for violating California’s vehicle code if the driver uses a Bluetooth device to send or receive messages while operating a vehicle.

Hands-Free Devices Are Still Cause of Distracting Driving in California

When drivers are distracted, they are more likely to cause accidents. If you are in a crash in Cameron Park or surrounding areas of California, caused by another driver, our experienced car accident attorneys want to hear about your case. Contact Cunningham Law Group, A.P.C. today for a free case review, in which we will discuss the facts of your case, potential compensation that you may be entitled to seek, and steps to take moving forward. You can reach us by contacting us through phone or online.