I have a warning for drivers: Even if you’re talking on your cell phone “hands-free,” you could be more dangerous than a drunk driver. According to a piece we read in the New York Times, research by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows that there are “negligible differences” in accident risk whether you’re holding the phone when you drive or not. In fact, using hands-free devices may be even MORE dangerous than holding the phone when you drive. Why? Basically, since drivers think they’re being “safer” by talking hands-free, they may not focus on the road as much as they would if they were actually holding a cell phone. Want more scary cell phone news? In one study, drivers found it easier to drive DRUNK than to drive while using a phone – even when it was hands-free.
So why is talking hands-free just as dangerous as actually holding the phone while you chat? Because it’s the conversation that’s distracting you while you drive – not whether you’re holding the phone or not. According to researchers, the human brain has a limited capacity for attention. So, whatever focus you give to a phone conversation cuts into your attention to driving. In fact, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University found that just listening to a conversation reduced the amount of brain activity devoted to driving by almost 40%. One person mentioned in the article killed someone when he ran a red light while on his cell phone. The person tried to use a hands-free headset after the accident, but found his mind wandering into his phone call so much, that he nearly missed a light again.
What’s the bottom line here? Like we always say, PULL over if you need to use your cell phone – whether you’re talking hands-free or not. It could be the difference between life and death.