Hands-free chat just as dangerous

Dal News Staff - July 13, 2009

A new study in the National Safety Council’s Journal of Safety Research concludes there is little difference between the driving safety risk of hands-free versus handheld cell phones.

The study, by Dalhousie PhD student Yoko Ishigami and Professor Raymond Klein, confirms that any type of cell phone use detracts from the brain’s ability to focus on safe driving. Several other studies also support the claim that hands-free phones and handheld phones are equally dangerous.

Cell phone use behind the wheel is a growing problem. Each year, in the United States an estimated 636,000 crashes, 330,000 injuries, 12,000 serious injuries and 2,600 deaths are caused by a distracted driver on a cell phone. In January, the National Safety Council in the U.S. became the first national organization to call for a total ban on cell phones.

In this study, researchers found no distinction between the safety risk of hands-free phones and handheld phones. Results show both types of phones:

  • Cause more accidents and driving errors;
  • Impair reaction times;
  • Slow down overall vehicle speeds.

While vehicle speed tends to decline for drivers using any type of cell phones, those with handheld phones generally show the most decline. The researchers suggest, “Slowing down can be a compensatory behavior to maintain safety in the face of factors challenging it. Drivers may have slowed down more when talking on a hands-held phone because they were more aware of the mental and physical load imposed on them.”

LINK: Is a hands-free phone safer than a handheld phone? in the Journal of Safety Research.

DALNEWS STORY: Is a hands-free phone safer?


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