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Hands-Free is distracted driving

Using electronic devices and driving is risky and illegal, in many cases, in Connecticut. The state prohibits handheld devices for all drivers, hands-free and handheld cell phone use for bus drivers and novice drivers and texting for all drivers. However, the legal use of hand-free devices, except for bus drivers and new drivers, is still dangerous and distracting.

The National Safety Council reported that the use of hand-free devices while driving still leads to a cognitive distraction by taking a driver's attention from the road. Although hands-free devices may allow motorists to keep their eyes on the road and their hands on steering wheels, use of these devices is distracting by making drivers listen and respond to a disembodied voice.

Drivers do not successfully multitask. The mind handles tasks sequentially by rapidly switching between one and another undertaking. Although it appears that two tasks are being performed at the same time, the brain is performing only one task and switching attention between chores. As this occurs, different areas of the brain are engaged in processing the information across it pathways. When it becomes overloaded, this processing becomes affected. It will not process all of the information needed to react to potentially hazardous situations.

A distracted driver also suffers inattention blindness. Although they are looking at the road, their brains are not processing everything on the roadway to effectively respond to unexpected situations, seek and identify potential hazards and monitor their surroundings.

Cell phone use is more risky and cause more driving errors than other distracting behavior such as talking with passengers or listening to music in the car. Passengers often provide assistance by discussing traffic and stopping conversations when driving conditions are demanding. However, it is less likely that conversations on a cell phone will stop. Voice communication also influences visual attention more than low and moderate music volume. Any distracting tasks should be avoided, however.

The National Safety Council found that car accidents are among the top two causes of injury deaths throughout a person's life. Where these accidents are caused by a reckless or negligent driver, prompt advice should be sought so that victims can seek compensation for losses that are suffered.

Source: National Safety Council, "Understanding the distracted brain. Why driving while using hands-free cell phones is risky behavior," Retrieved Dec. 1, 2014

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