It seems like everywhere you turn these days, you see drivers chatting away seemingly to no one at all. Of course, by now we usually assume they’re talking to someone on their hands-free cell phone headset or their built-in OnStar phone.
Although many drivers believe they’re safer using these hands-free options, recent research proves otherwise. A new study shows that drivers are no safer talking on a hands-free phone than if they were using a hand-held one.
Look mom, no hands!
The new study, conducted by Yoko Ishigami, Dalhousie University and Raymond Klein, appeared in the National Safety Council’s (NSC) Journal of Safety Research this summer. The study shows that any type of cell phone use distracts the driver from focusing on the road. The human brain simply can’t focus on the conversation and safe driving at the same time.
The researchers discovered that hands-free phones are just as dangerous for drivers as hand-held phones. According to the study’s findings, talking on any type of cell phone impairs a driver’s reaction times and causes them to reduce their vehicle speeds. This leads to more driving errors and car accidents.
Based on the study, there’s at least one difference between drivers using hands-free phones and those using hand-held ones. While drivers talking on any type of cell phone tend to slow down, those using hand-held phones typically slow down more.
Don’t talk and drive
This new study is not the only research that shows hands-free phones are no safer for drivers. Several other studies have made the same claim.
However, until now, many lawmakers obviously believed hands-free phones were safer. As a matter of fact, five U.S. states and Washington D.C. have passed laws requiring drivers to use hands-free phones instead of hand-held ones. But these new studies claim that it’s the conversation-not the act of holding a cell phone-that causes drivers to lose focus.
It’s clear that cell phones cause serious problems and lead to countless car accidents on our nation’s roads and highways. According to some estimates, more than 636,000 car crashes, 330,000 injuries, 12,000 serious injuries and 2,600 deaths are caused by distracted drivers talking on a cell phone in the U.S. each year.
In January 2009, the NSC called for a complete ban on cell phones for drivers. Other national organizations and lobbyists may follow suit.
In the meantime, drivers may want to take caution. Although no laws have officially been passed, you may want to refrain from taking calls or at least limit your cell phone use when you’re behind the wheel. While avoiding cell phone calls when you’re driving may be an inconvenience, it could end up saving your life in the long run.