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New report says hands-free devices are not as safe as advertised

The topic of distracted driving on this blog continues today with a surprising revelation by the National Safety Council (NSC): hands-free devices don’t actually make it safer for you to drive and talk on the cellphone.

Now, you may be thinking “well then why do so many states have laws that allow hands-free devices?” There’s no real answer to that question, other than to say that it appears the supposed safety that comes with using a hands-free device is a myth.

The NSC performed a public opinion poll and found that 80 percent of respondents believe that using a hands-free device while driving is safer than using a handheld device and driving. 70 percent also said they used hands-free devices because they are safer than handheld devices.

But here’s where the myth unravels: there are more than 30 studies which have shown that hands-free devices still distract the driver from his or her task of safely operating a motor vehicle. One member of the NSC explained why this is the case. “The problem is the brain does not truly multi-task. Just like you can’t read a book and talk on the phone, you can’t safely operate a vehicle and talk on the phone,” he said.

In other words, if you are having a phone conversation or composing a text while you drive — even if you are using a hands-free device — you are still distracted. Your brain simply can’t divide its focus on two tasks. This is an important revelation in the world of personal injury, because some accident victims may think that if the other driver was using a hands-free device then they can’t be held responsible for distracted driving. These studies and the NSC report say otherwise.

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

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