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Do you think hands-free phones are safer?

When we get behind the wheel, we need to remember that we have changed our role from that of sitting in an office or at home. Driving a vehicle is one of the most complex activities we do during the course of a day, but because we engage in this activity virtually every day, sometimes for hours at a time, we often fail to recognize how complex it is.

And it becomes more dangerous when we add some type of distraction to the mix. The current favorite method of distraction in a motor vehicle is the omnipresent cellphone. Many people treat their cars as phone booths, instantly picking up the phone when the turn the key, and talking non-stop until they reach their destination. If they reach their destination. 

With distracted driving being involved with a significant number of car accidents, many Americans believe hands-free phones are the answer. A survey found 80 percent of motorists believe this to be true, despite research showing this is incorrect.

It is not holding the phone that is the problem, but the act of thinking about the conversation. Research indicates that humans do not really multi-task very well and the dangerous distraction results from the brain focusing on the phone and not the road.

Car manufacturers, in an effort to sell more cars by offering more features on their vehicles, are now adding to vehicles many hands-free electronic systems, all of which can distract the driver. Yet more than half of those responding to a poll think that if the device is built into their car or truck, it must be safe.

While many activities can distract a driver, because of their very ubiquity in our lives, cellphones are particularly worrisome. Many may not even recognize that they are speaking on a phone or reading a text when they enter their car. 

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

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