Close to 200 million Americans own cell phones and many of them use them while driving. Some cities and states only allow drivers to use hands-free cell phone devices. However, even these drivers may not be as safe behind the wheel as they think.
A new study indicates that there is no difference between the dangers of driving while using a hand-held device or a hands-free one. Both increase the risk of getting into a serious crash by 400 percent.
Some states have banned the use of hand-held cell phones while driving.
However, Anne McCartt of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, an industry association, says that laws banning hand-held devices don't solve all the problems of talking while driving. "Laws prohibiting hand-held phone use, but allowing hands-free phone use, our studies indicate, will not solve the problem."
Having only one hand on the wheel is not what increases the risk of an accident. According to the study, it is the conversation itself that distracts the driver. That's why some states want to ban the use of cell phones altogether.
Connecticut State Delegate Richard Roy realizes that will take some time, "We banned the hand-held cell phone because that's the only law we could pass at this time. I think if we tried to pass a ban on all cell phones we would meet with overwhelming defeat."
The cell phone industry says this study, which ignores other driver distractions, is flawed.
John Walls is from the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association, an industry group. He explains, "We talk about eating and drinking and smoking and putting on make-up or reading the paper -- all of those things can contribute to making a less-safe driver."
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that all forms of driver distraction account for 25 percent of automobile accidents.