Keep Your Ears on the Road, Says Researchers

July 02, 2008 03:48 PM
by Denis Cummings
Cell phone bans have drivers buying headsets so they can keep on talking in their cars, but hands-free devices might not be any safer.

30-Second Summary

California and Washington join New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Washington, D.C., in banning hand-held cell phone use for all drivers. Other states have bans for specific drivers, such as teenagers and school bus drivers, or bans on text messaging.

California, like the prior states, has made driving with a cell phone a primary offense, meaning that drivers can be pulled over even they are driving properly. Washington enacted the ban as a secondary offense, meaning that only drivers who are pulled over for traffic violations can be penalized.

All states do allow for the use of headsets or hands-free devices. California electronics stores have reported a large jump in sales of hands-free cell phone devices leading up to the ban.

However, many studies have shown that hands-free devices do little to improve driver safety. According to these studies, the distraction caused by using a phone causes unsafe driving much more so than driving with one hand. “It has not anything to do with manipulating the phone or holding it,” says University of South Carolina psychologist Amit Almor. “It’s the attentional demands of conversation that matters.”

Headline Link: California and Washington bans go into effect

Reaction: Californians buying headsets

Background: Cell phone driving laws

Opinion & Analysis: Do bans make us safer?


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