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Are hands-free cellphones safe for drivers?

If you talk and text on your cellphone while driving, you are not alone. Approximately 600,000 people engage in this practice at any given moment of the day, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. Yet thousands of people are injured and killed in accidents caused by this type of distracted driving. Some have turned to using hands-free cellphones as a way to minimize distraction and still use a cellphone while driving. Yet, a study released by AAA shows that hands-free cellphones are not much safer than their hand-held counterparts.

During the study, researchers asked participants to engage in several distractive tasks while driving. These include the following:

  • Listening to the radio
  • Composing an email using voice-activated technology
  • Talking using a hand-held cellphone
  • Talking using a hands-free cellphone
  • Maintaining a conversation with another passenger in the car
  • Listening to an audio book

While participants completed the tasks, researchers measured their heart rate, brain activity, eye movement and response time as a way to determine the amount of cognitive distraction they were experiencing. The results showed that talking on a hands-free cellphone was only slightly less distracting than using a hand-held cellphone. Although you don’t need your hands or eyes to use a hands-free device, these cellphones act as a significant source of cognitive distraction. Rather than being fully focused on driving, your brain is switching back and forth from one complex task to the other, leaving moments in time where you are not concentrating on the road at all.

This information is intended to educate and should not be taken as legal advice.

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