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Are hands-free cellphones a safe option for drivers?

Although it is not illegal for you to use a hand-held cellphone while driving in Texas, many states have banned this practice because of its deadly consequences. As a result, many people have started using hands-free cellphones while behind the wheel to limit their risk of becoming involved in a deadly car accident. Yet, studies show that using a hands-free cellphone to talk to friends or family while operating a vehicle may not be the safest option.

The problem lies in the fact that using a hands-free cellphone still creates a significant amount of cognitive distraction. This occurs when your brain is trying to engage in two complex tasks at the same time and is unable to fully concentrate on either one of them. Instead, your focus bounces back and forth from one task to the other, leaving gaps in time where you are really concentrating on the road at all. It is during these moments where your risk of becoming involved in an accident increases significantly.

The study, released by AAA, involves participants operating a simulator, as well as an actual car set up with monitoring equipment. Researchers measured the amount of cognitive distraction drivers experienced while performing several tasks, including the following:

  •          Listening to the radio
  •          Listening to an audio book
  •          Talking with a passenger in the car
  •          Using a hand-held cellphone
  •          Using a hands-free cellphone
  •          Using voice-activated devices to compose an email

Participants’ heart rate, eye movement, reaction time and brain activity were measured as an indication of cognitive distraction. Surprisingly, the hands-free cellphone was just slightly less distracting than the hand-held device.

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

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