Hands-free calls could be just as dangerous on the roads

Posted by Emma Woollacott

You don't need to be fumbling over a text to be a dangerous driver - hands-free voice calls can be just as dangerous, a driving safety organization has warned.

Based on research from more than 350 scientific papers, the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) has produced a report summarizing distracted driving research.

The group says that as many as a quarter of crashes could be caused by cellphone-related distractions. And it cites studies from Canada and Australia that indicate that hands-free calls are just as risky as regular ones.

"Despite all that has been written about driver distraction, there is still a lot that we do not know," says GHSA executive director Barbara Harsha.

What they do know, she says, is that distractions affect driving performance - and that drivers are distracted as much as half the time. And while phone calls increase the risk of a crash, texting increases it more.

"While distracted driving is an emotional issue that raises the ire of many on the road, states must take a research-based approach to addressing the problem," says Harsha.

"Until more research is conducted, states need to proceed thoughtfully, methodically and objectively."

She says that texting and hand-held cell phone enforcement projects in New York and Connecticut are proving effective.

"Our report includes the preliminary results of these cell phone crackdowns, which have prompted dramatic declines in hand-held cell phone use and texting behind the wheel," she says.

"The final results are expected shortly and should be considered as states move forward with education and enforcement initiatives."