Hands-free legislation leads people to believe that it’s safe (or at least safer) to drive while talking on a cell phone with the aid of a hands-free device, reports Governing. Well, it’s not.
Governing points to a 2006 study that found no difference between drivers talking on hand-held phones and those talking on hands-free devices—as soon as people started talking, they became more likely to rear end another car than a legally drunk driver. More recently, researchers found that simply talking on a phone cuts the brain activity devoted to driving nearly 40 percent. Even the wireless industry seems to be having second thoughts: Traditionally opposed to handheld bans, in January the industry shifted its official line to “neutral.”
So why aren’t we seeing outright bans on cell phones in the car? Twenty-nine states have enacted some form of limitation on phone use while driving, but none have gone so far as to wholly prohibit it. Governing has a theory as to why:
The best explanation is a rather disturbing one: Many drivers, state legislators among them, have simply come to depend on using cell phones during drive time to take care of business, check in with spouses or catch up with friends. This may make long commutes more professionally and socially productive. But it also makes the roads more dangerous for everybody.
Pam Fisher, New Jersey’s director of traffic safety, tells Governing that we’re at “the beginning of a ‘social norming’ process.” Fisher thinks that attitudes toward talking on the phone while driving can and will shift—much in the same way drunk driving became socially unacceptable. In the meantime, pass on the suggestion: Hang up and drive.