Alteva wrongly equates 'hands-free' distracted driving with 'risk-free'

Company asserts managing email, calendar, and calls while motoring is safe if you've got your hands on the wheel

Driving while simply talking on a cell phone -- even a hands-free phone -- is as dangerous as driving drunk, according to various research studies. Yet hosted communications provider Alteva is trying to convince companies that it and Microsoft have teamed on a voice-driven collaboration solution that's just perfect for helping workers not just talk but "safely manage their email, customer data, manage calendars, and collaborate with co-workers while on the road."

Ironically, in a pitch proclaiming the safety of working while driving with your hands on the wheel, Alteva's PR rep cites stats from the National Safety Council, specifically that 28 percent of traffic accidents occur when people talk on cell phones or send text messages while driving. The vast majority of those accidents involve the talkers, 1.4 million versus 200,000 texters.

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Yet someone at Alteva evidently either missed or ignored the NSC's very relevant and related finding that driving while talking is equally dangerous whether or not you're holding a phone.

Just last March, in fact, the NSC released a comprehensive paper titled "Understanding the distracted brain: Why driving while using hands-free cell phones is risky behavior" [PDF]. Drawing on 30 different research studies, the report states that the risk of using a phone while driving don't stem from the fact that the driver one has one hand on the wheel. Rather, "the cognitive distraction from paying attention to conversation -- from listening and responding to a disembodied voice -- contributes to numerous driving impairments."

Those impairments include:

  • "Inattention blindness," where cell phone users look but fail to see up to 50 percent of the information in their driving environment
  • Slower response and reaction times, more so than drivers with a 0.08 blood alcohol concentration, according to a University of Utah study
  • Problems staying in lanes, which can be particularly dangerous at high speeds on freeways

The lesson here is that any company trying to convince you that equipping yourself or your on-the-go employees with hands-free devices will magically eliminate the risks of distracted driving is doing a serious disservice. No matter how busy any professional might be, no email nor phone call could possibly be so important to be worth literally risking life and limb. 

This article, "Alteva wrongly equates 'hands-free' distracted driving with 'risk-free'," was originally published at Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog.

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