NEW YORK (MainStreet) -- Most people agree drivers shouldn't be on the road while distracted by their cellphones, but exactly how far the government should go in banning such behavior is a matter of some debate.
The National Transportation Safety Board recommended a
on the use of cellphones while driving, with the exception of emergencies. Interestingly, the report did not say an exception should be made for hands-free devices, as many state laws do.
The NTSB says that all phone calls, even those using hands-free devices, should be illegal when driving. Some disagree.
But not everyone agrees. Notably, Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood said in a press conference last week that he did not feel that it was necessary to ban hands-free calling from behind the wheel.
"The problem is not hands-free," he told reporters, according to
The Detroit News.
So with two federal agencies apparently at odds over safe driving practices, who's in the right?
The science does indeed suggest that the NTSB is right in not carving out an exception for hands-free devices. While it's clear
texting while driving
is more dangerous than making a call, the distance between holding a phone to make a call and using a Bluetooth isn't as great, with studies finding little to no difference between the impairment caused by handheld or hands-free conversations. It seems simply carrying on a conversation over the phone is enough to distract a driver, regardless of whether you're holding the phone or wearing a headset.
Popular opinion is mixed, though. When we posed the question to
, George W. Serbia noted that "Hands-free works fine. It is no different than having a conversation with someone in the passenger seat." Another reader, Mary Ellen T, agreed, asking: "Is there really any difference whether you use a hands-free device or listen (and sing) to the radio?" By contrast, Frank Aloha Rizzo emphatically agreed with the NTSB, saying that "All cellphone use should be banned while driving."
With the federal government apparently just as divided as our readers, we don't expect any kind of nationwide ban on hands-free talking behind the wheel to become law in the foreseeable future.
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