Can a Hands-Free Texting App Stop Distracted Driving?

As many people have discovered, texting and driving, much like drinking and driving, do not mix. The law takes texting quite seriously. After many instances and reports of drivers who were distracted enough by texting to cause casualties, many legal jurisdictions around the world have decide to make texting while driving illegal.

However, do these laws miss the point? Is it actually the texting that causes the distraction of the driver, or is the distraction caused by something else? Namely, would a hands free texting application of some sort allow drivers to text and drive at the same time? And most importantly, what would it take lawmakers to see the value in the idea if it worked?

Public Demands It

Lawmakers in many jurisdictions made texting while driving illegal by popular vote of the people. Over 90 percent of drivers think that texting should be illegal while driving, including those in jurisdictions where texting is not actually illegal yet. This means is that any change in the texting laws will start and end with the attitude of the voters.

Many voters also believe that texting while driving is an action mostly taken by young people, especially teenagers. As many teenagers cannot vote, the non-texting majority easily out rules them in the booth. So any hands free app would have to convince the parents of teens who text frequently that it is safe.

Loss of Coordination

The reason that texting while driving causes so many accidents is the loss of hand eye coordination. Since a hands free texting app does not require hand eye coordination, it follows that it should stop distracted driving. If the app were voice controlled, hand eye coordination would be unaffected, as speaking is done with a different part of the brain than any other motor skill.

Biologically then, this looks like an easy solution. However, as anyone who has driven while talking to a passenger knows, it’s about more than coordination. It’s about keeping your attention on the road instead of a conversation. While a hands-free app might reduce texting while driving, it may do little to combat the distraction of communicating when all focus should be on the road.

Apps Not a Complete Answer

As many apps are free or very low cost, it’s easy to see that teens especially could get their hands on the technology to stop texting while driving. Almost every teen has a smart phone, so accessibility is no problem. However, the act of carrying on a conversation is still problematic. A 2008 study at the University of Utah showed that 50 percent of drivers using hands-free headsets to talk while driving were still distracted enough to miss their exits.

By this line of thinking, the only conclusion is to say that yes, a hands-free texting app would help curb distracted driving, but it will not stop the problem. However, lawmakers have already made their decisions, and the voting public has agreed. Hands-free devices should stop texting while driving, but whether than translates into fewer distracted driving accidents is another matter.

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