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Why, in the case of cellphones, hands-free doesn't equate to accident-free

By now, everyone has heard about the dangers of distracted driving. However, people have varying opinions about what activities actually qualify as being distracting to a driver. In recent years, cellphone use and specifically texting while driving has received a lot of attention and focus by politicians and law enforcement officials. It’s important to remember, however, that there are numerous other activities in which drivers engage that are equally distracting and dangerous.

Eating, talking to passengers, changing the radio station, fiddling with a GPS system and tending to one's appearance in the rearview mirror are all extremely distracting activities that may result in a driver either causing or being involved in a motor vehicle accident. Talking on a cellphone is also widely cited as being distracted, however, the results of a recent Travelers' Insurance poll revealed that 83 percent of respondents "believe it's sometimes or always safe to talk on a hands-free device while driving."

Anyone who has ever witnessed the driving maneuvers of a driver, who is talking on a cellphone, handheld or hands-free, would likely agree that talking on a cellphone negatively impacts one's ability to drive. While hands-free devices have been widely touted as the solution to the cellphone distracted driving problem, more than 30 studies prove otherwise.

Regardless of what a driver's hands are doing, when engaged in a telephone conversation, a driver's brain is distracted. Consequently, a driver may run a stop sign or fail to see a pedestrian crossing the street. To reduce the likelihood of causing or being involved in a motor vehicle accident, drivers must remain focused, attentive and vigilant to the task at hand.

Source: Hardford Courant, "Distracted Driving Involves More Than Phone, Insurer Warns," Don Stacom, April 21, 2015

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