Hand-held v. Hands-free Cell Phones

A National Highway Safety Administration (NHSTA) report found that at least 25% of motor vehicle crashes are distraction related.

Distraction refers to the diversion of attention away from the primary task of driving due to other activities. Examples of distraction include animals, eating/drinking, reading, cell phones, passengers, rubber-necking, children, radio, texting, and smoking. These distractions often occur in combination. It is not necessary for such activities to result in adverse consequences to be considered a distraction.

There are four categories of distraction:

  • Visual—like looking at a map or reading a phone number
  • Biomechanical (manual)—like dialing a cell phone number or tuning the radio
  • Cognitive—like thinking about something other than driving
  • Auditory—like listening to a conversation or the radio

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The report noted: Whereas hands-free phones may have some performance benefits, evidence indicates that drivers who use hands-free phones use them more frequently and for longer durations. Limiting use to hands-free phone while driving will not solve the problem. There will still be the distraction of listening to a conversation and thinking about the substance of the call.

The agency, therefore, strongly recommends that drivers not use wireless communication devices, including text messaging systems, when driving, except in an emergency.

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