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Is it safe for drivers to use hands-free devices?

After hearing reports about the dangers of texting and driving, many drivers started using hands-free technology instead. Unfortunately, studies show that hands-free devices are not as safe as drivers think.

The act of communicating over the phone places demand on your brain. While your mind focuses on the conversation, it directs your attention away from road conditions and traffic. What should drivers know about the risks of talking on the phone while driving?

Overloading your brain’s ability to focus

Your brain is unable to fully devote attention to two simultaneous tasks. A recent study showed that the reaction times of drivers speaking on the phone decreases by 40 percent. The delay was the same whether or not they were using a hands-free device.

While the reaction times were identical between the drivers who held their cell phones and those who used hands-free devices, drivers with the hands-free devices may be a greater hazard because they are unaware that their driving is impaired. They think that using a hands-free device removes the associated risks of talking on the phone. This gives them a false sense of security and possibly decreases their alertness.

Are passengers a distraction?

Holding a conversation takes mental effort as you process and form language. Researchers reported that drivers conversing with their passengers have the same cognitive workload as drivers talking on the phone.

However, speaking with passengers is generally safer because passengers tend to watch the road and respond to external ques. They can alert drivers to dangerous road conditions, and have a tendency to stop speaking when hazardous situations arise.

What can drivers do?

In Louisiana, drivers are legally allowed to speak on their cell phones unless they are in a school zone. Note that texting and driving is always forbidden.

Even if you are legally permitted to talk on your cell phone, it is not necessarily in your best interest. Avoid making or receiving phone calls while driving to reduce distraction. If you need to take a call, pull over to a rest stop or parking lot.

Others around you may speak on the phone while driving, even if you abstain. Despite your best efforts, you may be in an accident with a distracted driver. If you are hit by a negligent driver, contact an attorney who can evaluate your case and help you pursue the compensation you deserve.

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