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Are hands-free cell phones safe for drivers?

In California and in many other states in the country, drivers are prohibited from using hand-held cell phones while behind the wheel. The dangers of distracted driving are well-known, as researchers have proven the disastrous effects of texting and driving.

In 2017 alone, more than 3,100 people were killed in distracted driving car accidents while hundreds of thousands more were injured. As a result of the hand-held cellphone ban, many drivers have turned to using hands-free devices in an attempt to stay safe while driving. The problem lies in the fact that hands-free cellphones may not be as safe as some think.


A study published by AAA found that using a hands-free device while driving is only minimally less distracted than using a hand-held cell phone. During the study, researchers had participants engage in several distractive activities while driving a simulator and a vehicle equipped with monitoring devices. The distractive tasks were as follows:

Talking using a hand-held and a hands-free device

  • Talking with a passenger in the car

  • Listening to audio book

  • Listening to the radio

  • Composing an email using voice-activated technology

Researchers measured each participant’s brain activity, eye movement, response time and heart rate to measure the amount of cognitive distraction they experienced. While using a hands-free cell phone was less distracting than using a hand-held device, the differences were minimal. 

When you talk on a hands-free device, your brain is unable to fully concentrate on the road ahead. Instead, it bounces back and forth from one activity to the other. This leaves gaps in time where the brain isn’t focused on driving at all, which increases the risk of a catastrophic car accident

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



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