A new study published in the Human Factors journal claims that conversations with your passengers can be distracting to drivers, similar to the effect of texting or talking on a cell phone while driving. The authors of the study examined 106 tests detailed in 93 papers that examined the driving habits of well over 4,000 people.

How Do Conversations Impact Driving?

When drivers talk with passengers or on a cell phone while driving, some of their attention is on the conversation rather than the road. As a result, chatting drivers:

  • Are slower to notice potential road hazards;
  • React later than non-talking drivers;
  • Do not scan the driving environment as frequently;
  • Look to the left and the right less often;
  • Check their rearview mirrors less;
  • Do not tend to decrease their speed or increase the distance between their cars and other vehicles to compensate for the distraction; and
  • Have more wrecks, running into people who are on foot as well as hitting infrastructure and other vehicles.

Do Hands-Free Phones Eliminate the Distraction?

Hands-free devices are still a source of distraction for drivers. Hands-free phones are an improvement over handheld devices, particularly if the hands-free phone is entirely integrated into the car’s audio system. This is because the driver does not have to look at, pick up, or press anything on the cell phone. Motorists can keep their hands on the steering wheel and their eyes on the road. The act of talking, however, uses some of your brain power and your focus, and hands-free phones do not get rid of that distraction.

Are All Conversations With Passengers Equally Distracting?

You are more likely to be distracted by a conversation that requires a great deal of thinking. Imagine, for example, that you are playing a game with your passengers while on a road trip, trying to remember the names of all the United States presidents in order. That conversation could pull more of your attention away from the road than light chit chat about when you want to stop to eat lunch.

Can You Use a Cell Phone While Driving in Florida?

Yes, but if you have an accident in Florida, your use of the phone while driving could be negligence. Drivers will not receive a ticket for talking on a hands-free or handheld cell phone while behind the wheel.

Does Florida Law Prohibit Texting While Driving?

While texting and driving is banned in Florida, law enforcement officers cannot pull over a driver they observe texting unless the driver is also violating another law. In March of 2018, the Florida House passed legislation that would make texting a primary offense. This means an officer can ticket a driver for texting without the need for another violation. It is unclear whether this will become law.
Texting while behind the wheel is a primary offense in 43 other states, putting Florida in a very small minority.

What Can I Do If I Was in a Wreck With a Distracted Driver?

If you suffered an injury in an accident caused by a distracted driver, call the Montero Law Center at 954-767-6500 to get your free consultation. We can investigate your crash, gather proof of your economic and noneconomic damages, and file a personal injury claim on your behalf. We do not get paid any legal fees until you get compensation.