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That hands-free phone doesn't keep drivers safe

You know that it's dangerous to send or read text messages while you drive, so you never do it. You just turn the notifications off. Similarly, you feel like it's dangerous -- though marginally safer -- to talk on the phone instead of texting. You still have to hold the phone with one hand, which means just one hand on the wheel. You decide not to do that, either.

What you turn to is a hands-free phone system. Maybe it's already built into your car. The phone syncs with the vehicle and you can use the built-in speakers to talk to people via your phone -- all without ever touching the device. That's safer, right?

A minor difference

It is safer, but it is not safe. Experts note that it only makes a minor difference. A hands-free system is still a distraction and it still causes accidents. When you look at distracted driving accidents every year, some come from texting, some come from holding a phone and others come from hands-free systems. The risk does not disappear.

Why is this?

A hands-free system sounds safe because you get to keep your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road. In those areas, it does help. But there are three areas to driving safely: Manual control, visual recognition and mental awareness. The hands-free system still distracts you mentally and that's what makes it dangerous.

People have a hard time focusing on multiple things. Those who say they can multitask are essentially deceiving themselves. With the way the brain works, you can generally focus on one task at a time. Splitting up your attention doesn't mean thinking about multiple things. It just means cycling your attention between them, one at a time.

That's why daydreaming also counts as distracted driving. You don't have to take any specific action. You just have to think about something else instead of the road and the traffic around you. It could be as simple as thinking about the meal you want for dinner or where you want to go on vacation. Or it could be as complex as trying to carry on a conversation on a hands-free phone system, where you have to listen to what someone else says, process it, think of a response, vocalize that response and then start the process all over again.

Distracted driving and you

Now that you know that using a phone is always a distraction, you can avoid it yourself. Unfortunately, other drivers around you will still get distracted and cause accidents. It is important for you to know what legal rights you have if you suffer serious injuries in these accidents.

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