Hands-Free Devices Not "Risk-Free" For Distracted Driving

6:24 AM, May 20, 2010   |    comments
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You may have shelled out hundreds of dollars on a hands-free device, but some studies show they're not foolproof against distracted driving.

The hands-free device is better than hand-held devices because it allows both hands to control the vehicle, said Lt. Mike Stokes, Houston County Traffic Division Supervisor, but it still takes your attention away from the road and hurts your driving abilities.

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"Anything that distracts while your driving is dangerous," he said.

The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration says hand-held devices may be slightly worse but hands-free devices are not risk free.

The agency says hands-free or hand-held, the mental distraction is significant enough to hurt a driver's performance. The administration notes the driver is more likely to miss key visual and audio cues needed to avoid a crash.

A study out last year by the Journal of Safety Research says "talking on the phone, regardless of phone type, has negative impacts on performance, especially in detecting and identifying events. Performance while using a hands-free phone was rarely found to be better than when using a hand-held phone."

The study adds, "current research does not support the decision to allow hands-free phone use while driving."

Distraction from cell phone use while driving hand-held or hands free, delays a driver's reaction as much as having a blood alcohol concentration of .08 percent, the legal limit, according to a University of Utah study.

Painting Company owner Kenny Pierce says he invested about $350 in a hands-free kit after near-misses with other drivers.

"Numerous times running off the side of the road, runnin' behind somebody and slamming on the brakes at the last minute because I'm not paying attention to what I'm doing," said Pierce.

He said that happened at least once a day and he feels better off with the hands-free kit.

"Focus on what your doing and paying attention and not hanging on to a telephone," said Pierce.

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