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Study: Hands-free calling, texting risky while driving


MADISON, WI (WTAQ) - If you think that hands-free device you're using in your car is safer than talking on a cell phone, think again.

A new study from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety finds that voice-activated technologies allowing drivers to talk on the phone and text can create mental distractions.

"Just like we've for years encouraged people not to text and not to talk on their phones while they drive, we urge drivers to not use in-vehicle technology unnecessarily," says Assistant Vice President of Public Affairs for AAA Pam Moen.

AAA's study used mounted cameras to measure eye movement and brain function to see how distracted you really are while using hand-held features. They then created a 5-point scale to show how distracted each task makes you.

"Things like talking on a cell phone and interestingly whether it was hand-held or hands-free, resulted in a 2 or a moderate risk on the scale," says Moen.

Researchers report that increasing mental workload and other distractions result in slower reaction times, and that drivers scan the road less and miss visual cues. The study says that could lead to drivers being unable to see things, like stop signs and pedestrians, that are right in front of them. 

AAA will now take the findings to the automotive and electronics industries to try and limit future features from becoming too distracting, or make certain features disable when the car is moving.