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30 studies agree: hands-free is just as dangerous as handheld

Anyone who drives in Syracuse should know that there is a complete ban in New York on texting while driving, but they might not also realize that there is a ban on using handheld cellphones behind the wheel, too. The reasoning is clear, using a handheld cellphone while driving is dangerous and it really doesn't matter if it is being used to text, surf the Internet or to talk on the phone. So, what about hands-free cellphones?

The National Safety Council took a public poll and drivers across the country overwhelmingly agreed that hands-free devices were safer than handheld devices. In fact, 80 percent of people thought so. Of those who actually use hands-free devices, 70 percent do so because they believe they are safer. The problem? More than 30 studies have found that hands-free devices are just as dangerous as handsheld devices.

The problem is not so much the looking away from the road to dial (although that is certainly a big distraction), but trying to have a conversation while driving. When people are driving, they need to use their brains to drive, to pay attention to the road and to make the adjustments necessary to stay safe. If they are also trying to hold a conversation, even if it is on a hands-free device, a great deal of brain power is being directed away from driving.

It certainly doesn't make it any better that vehicle manufactuers are including hands-free devices built into cars. If someone buys a car that allows a driver to talk on the phone, read or send text messages, or otherwise be distracted from driving, it sends the message that hands-free devices are safer than they are.

Source: Insurance Journal, "Why Hands-Free Cell Phones Are Not Safer: Safety Council," April 15, 2014

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