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Are hands-free cell phone systems safer for driving?

Making a phone call while you are stuck in traffic usually seems harmless. It’s a lot better than texting, and your car is barely moving as it is. If you have your phone hooked up to your car, it might feel even safer since you don’t have to hold your phone up to your ear.

Talking to your friends and family without lifting a finger is very convenient. But is it legal—and more importantly, safe—to have a phone conversation on the road?

You can’t be pulled over for talking on the phone

Under Louisiana law, some cell phone usage is restricted. Texting and social media use while driving may result in a $500 fine for a first-time offense. You are completely within your rights to make a call while driving—as long as you are over 18 and aren’t in a school zone.

Whether you are holding your device or using a hands-free system actually doesn’t matter in the Pelican State. It also doesn’t affect how dangerous it is to make a phone call while driving at all.

Multitasking is a myth

Just because it is legal to talk on the phone in your car doesn’t mean you should. A University of Iowa study shows that listening to someone else talk makes it tough to focus on the road in front of you. It doesn’t matter whether your phone is in your hand or not—neither option is as safe as just not answering the call.

The study involved asking participants questions while they watched changing objects on a screen. It took them longer than average to concentrate on new objects when they were actively listening. Researchers found that the distraction of a phone call could make it more challenging to focus on signs, other cars and pedestrians while driving.

Using a hands-free system might feel like a safe way to call while driving. But your brain can’t always focus on a conversation and the road at the same time. You should consider saving your conversation for later to keep yourself safe on your commute home.

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