Law enforcement departments in many states across the nation enacted laws prohibiting drivers from using hand-held cell phones. Although it is not against the law for motorists in New Mexico to use these devices, it is extremely dangerous to do so. Distracted drivers cause thousands of car accidents, injuries and deaths every year. As a way to minimize these accidents and stay in compliance with the law, some drivers started using hands-free cell phones. Yet, this technology may not be as safe as they seem.

Instead of concentrating solely on the road ahead, hands-free cellphones cause drivers to focus on other things. According to the National Safety Council, the brain cannot focus on two complex tasks simultaneously. Rather it switches back and forth from one task to the other, leaving moments where the driver is not concentrating on the road at all.

A study published by AAA found that hands-free cell phones are a significant source of cognitive distraction. To get an idea of just how distracting they are, researchers asked drivers to complete the following tasks while operating a simulator vehicle and a car equipped with monitoring devices.

  • Talk on a hand-held cell phone
  • Talk on a hands-free cell phone
  • Talk with another passenger in the vehicle
  • Listen to the radio
  • Listen to a book-on-tape
  • Compose an email using voice-activated technology

Researchers measured driver’s heart rate, eye movement, brain activity and response time. The results showed that while listening to the radio produced the least amount of cognitive distraction, talking on a hands-free cell phone was only slightly less distracting than using a hand-held device. All forms of driver distraction have the ability to cause a car accident.