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Are hands-free devices any less distracting to drivers?

Last summer, New Hampshire enacted its hands-free electronic device law. It bars the use of handheld electronic devices while driving. Such laws are necessary here and across the country because the problem of distracted driving is getting worse. Too many people are injured and killed each year in preventable car accidents, and cellphones and other electronic devices are often to blame.

In a recent AT&T survey about distracted driving behavior, the most frequent distraction (61 percent of respondents) was texting. But it seems that drivers are getting bolder about how they use their smartphones behind the wheel. Commonly reported activities included using email, surfing the internet, checking Facebook and taking driving selfies.

While banning handheld devices behind the wheel will help, it is important to know that hands-free is not the same thing as risk free. According to the National Safety Council, using a hands-free device can be just as distracting as a handheld one, but hands-free often brings a false sense of security.

Regardless of what is in your hands, interacting with an electronic device still diverts your attention away from the task of driving. In fact, using alternatives such as voice commands can be even more distracting because people are not used to using their devices in this way and must therefore focus more attention on them.

Hopefully, New Hampshire and other states will see a decline in distracted driving as laws strengthen and public awareness campaigns reach more drivers. In the meantime, distracted drivers who cause car accidents can potentially face criminal charges as well as personal injury lawsuits.

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