Driving a car while talking on the phone is as dangerous as driving drunk, according to a study performed by Carnegie Mellon. It may seem as if hands-free cell phone use is a much safer way to operate a mobile phone while driving, but the research shows that's not the case at all.
Eight states prohibit the use of a handheld phone while driving and 30 states outlaw the use of a text messaging device while driving. However, there are no laws in the United States that outlaw phone conversations or cell phone use with a hands-free setup. The perception by lawmakers is that keeping the hands of drivers on the steering wheel will increase the safety of driving and reduce distractions and the subsequent accidents and injuries.
Carnegie Mellon studied the brain activity of subjects in a driving simulator while there were no distractions and while having a conversation with someone using a hands-free setup. There was a huge increase in brain activity and a decrease in the ability of the drivers to focus on the task of driving while in the simulator. Subjects swerved and slowed similar to drivers under the influence of alcohol. The number of accidents involving handheld phones is only slightly higher than those involving hands-free phones. There is no significant protection from accidents or increase in attention by the driver when using a hands-free device to have a conversation on a mobile phone. The only way to be a safer driver is to devote more attention to the task of driving by eliminating distractions like cell phones and texting.
There are other situations other than driving where using a cellphone hands-free can be beneficial. One of the main hands-free technologies is Bluetooth, which is a short-range radio communication between different devices. A Bluetooth headset can send and receive voice communication from your mobile phone within a range of about 30 feet.
Smartphones like the Apple iPhone and the Android phones from Google have voice recognition technology, allowing your phone to recognize your spoken voice and generate text. If you need to enter a search term or the text for a message without typing, you can use the computing power in your smartphone. This is not a safe way to text while driving; though there is no research regarding the use of voice recognition, it still requires you to look at the phone and press buttons which create a potentially dangerous distraction. It's still safest to not use the hands-free features on your phone while driving.
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