A recent public opinion poll revealed that eighty percent of automobile
drivers incorrectly believe that hands free devices are safer than using
a hand held phone. Given the trend occurring within the past few years
of state legislatures making driving while using a hand held phone illegal,
it is not surprising that such a high percentage of respondents believe
hands free devices to be safer. The clear implication of the numerous
state statutes that make the use of hand held phones illegal, while still
allowing drivers to utilize hands free devices, is that use of a hands
free device is safer and suitable for use while driving an automobile.
Interestingly, a raft of fairly recent studies - evidence largely ignored
by many legislatures - now completely undercuts the rationale behind the
legislative distinction between the use of a hands free, versus, the use
of a hand held device while operating an automobile. The overwhelming
consensus among the studies is that using a hands free device while driving
is no safer than using a hand held device. In either instance, the brain
remains significantly distracted by the cell phone conversation. For example,
one study showed that using voice to text is more distracting than typing
texts by hand. Another indicated that many drivers who utilize a hands
free cell phone can miss seeing up to fifty percent of what is occurring
in the lanes immediately around them during the cell phone conversation.
If the studies are to be believed, the state lawmakers who crafted the
hands free legislation missed the mark by an embarrassingly large margin.
Unfortunately, the conclusions contained within these studies indicate
that many more automobile accident related fatalities and injuries will
occur until the law is amended to reflect the fact that drivers who utilize
hands free cell phones are the cause of a disproportionate amount of,
what would otherwise be, preventable accidents.