Safety \ Healthy Skeptic

Are Hands-Free Cell Phones Safe?

"I use my hands-free device when I'm in my car so that I can always pay attention to the road and keep my hands on the steering wheel and not be distracted."

If, like me, you took a Driver's Ed course, one of the first things you learned was to keep both hands on the wheel at all times.

A hands-free phone lets you do just that, which is why it would seem to be safer than holding the phone to your ear while you drive.

In fact, a growing number of states now have laws requiring drivers to use hands-free devices.

But these laws - and our faith in hands-free phones - may be misguided.

A study of Australian drivers showed that those using a cell phone were four times more likely than non-cell users to be in a serious crash, even if the phone was hands free.

Lab studies involving simulated driving help explain why.

Talking on the phone appears to slow reaction time. Watch how this driver engrossed in conversation fails to brake in time to avoid hitting a building.

Subjects using hands-free devices do no better than those holding their phones.

Some research has even found cells phone users to be as impaired as drunk driver--regardless of the type of phone.

The reason is distraction. You may think your mind is fully on the road, but in fact your attention is partly diverted to whatever you're talking about.

And research suggests cell phone conversations are more distracting than talking to other passengers because they can tell when the driver needs to concentrate.

Given our reliance on cell phones these days, it may not be realistic for most of us to avoid using them altogether in the car.

So the best advice is to talk only when necessary and keep conversations brief.

If you need to have a longer conversation, pull over or wait until you reach your destination

Doing so may very well save your life.

This entry last modified on: January 18, 2013 3:49 PM

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About the Video

Are hands-free phones safer to use when driving than a hand-held phone? Our Healthy Skeptic finds the facts to keep you safe on the road.


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