“Ask a Priest: Are Hands-Free Phone Calls on the Road OK?”

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Q: What is my moral culpability for taking hands-free phone calls while I am driving or someone else is driving and calls me while I’m, say, at home? I know hands-free is legal, but studies have shown it really isn’t that safe and can be dangerous. I try to not take the calls when I’m driving, but I also feel morally uneasy when someone calls me when they are driving. Thanks! – N.H.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: It might be good to follow your conscience in this case.

If your conscience is telling you that hands-free phone calls can be dangerous, that is something to be taken seriously. Too many people have been killed or injured because of distracted drivers.

We want to be careful not to equate civil law with the moral law. There are lots of things that are legal – abortion, pornography, contraception, etc. – but not morally good. We want to avoid a legalistic minimalism in making moral decisions.

Likewise, you might offer to cut off a phone call if you realize the person on the other end is driving. “Sorry, Joe, are you driving? I could call you later …”

Some people would appreciate your concern for them. In this case, however, the responsibility is more on the driver. He is the one who would have to gauge the risks of using a phone in that moment. There is no need to be too scrupulous in this case.

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