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Does Hands-Free Mean Risk-Free?

The short answer? No. In a recent National Safety Council poll, 80% of drivers said they think hands-free cell phones are safer than using handheld. Hands-free is defined as using an earpiece, dashboard system, or speakerphone to talk on the phone.

According to many studies and reports, even without hands, talking on a cell phone is distracting and many times, unsafe. It’s difficult for consumers to understand because the messages are mixed. Even though many states have banned handheld phone use, no states have banned hands-free so drivers and auto manufacturers continue to produce cars with hands-free communication built into the dashboards. It’s no wonder that drivers are under the assumption that it must be safe.

Here are the hard facts:

  • About 26% of all car crashes involve cell phone use – including hands-free.
  • At any given moment, 9% of drivers are talking on their cell phones.
  • Hands-free devices do not eliminate cognitive distractions; distractions now join alcohol and speeding as leading factors in fatal and series injury crashes.
  • Drivers talking on a cell phone can overlook up to 50% of what’s around them while looking out the windshield.
  • The brain toggles between tasks quickly, but can’t actually do two things at the same time.
  • The activity in the area of the brain that processes moving images decreases by up to 1/3 when listening or talking on a phone.
  • New studies show that using voice-to-text is more distracting than typing text by hand.

So, if you think that hands-free devices are safe, think again.