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The Confusion Surrounding Hands-Free Technology

A growing number of states have enacted laws banning the use of handheld cell phones by drivers. No laws have yet been passed banning hands-free technology by drivers. This distinction may be fueling the perception that hands-free technology is the answer to rising safety concerns about distracted driving. Unfortunately, no research supports the notion that hands-free devices are actually any better at preventing distracted driving car accidents. More than 30 studies have shown that there is no safety difference between handheld and hands-free devices in terms of their impact on safe driving. The National Safety Council is working to overcome the misperception of hands-free devices as a safer alternative.

An opinion poll conducted by the NSC showed that 4 out of 5 drivers nationwide believe that hands-free devices are safer than their handheld counterparts. Such a widespread belief is doubtlessly encouraging drivers to engage in the unsafe behavior of using their cell phones while operating their vehicles. While both hands might remain on the wheel, the mind of a person conducting a phone call is not focused where it should be, on the road. Any activity that takes your attention away from safe driving represents a threat.

April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month. The NSC is taking the opportunity to spread the message with a campaign entitled "Hands-free is not risk-free." The NSC has joined other groups in decrying the inclusion of hands-free technology into new vehicles. The increasingly common infotainment systems in new vehicles may be pushing drivers into adopting unsafe habits. Just because you can send text messages, check your email, update your Facebook status and check out movie times from your vehicle does not mean that you should.

Drivers using hands-free technology might be harder for police to identify and stop than drivers using handheld devices, but they are no less dangerous to themselves and others on the road. If you are driving, you should not do anything to take your attention off the road. The consequences may be more than you can bear.

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

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