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Report: Hands-free cells may be dangerous

July 19, 2004 at 2:40 PM

WASHINGTON, July 19 (UPI) -- U.S. government research on cell phones suggests that using hands-free sets while driving may be more dangerous than just holding a phone as one drives.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and other research groups have found that hands-free devices may actually add to the overall risk of driving and talking, the Wall Street Journal said Monday.

"The thing that disturbs me is that we have states and local municipalities making rules that basically give hands-free phones a free pass as being safe," says Jeffrey Runge, NHTSA's administrator.

"That's not good policy."

The new research finds that headsets and speaker-phones don't improve safety because it's the mental distraction of talking on the phone -- not holding it -- that causes the danger while driving. In fact, some research suggests the devices could actually increase risk by encouraging people to spend more time on their cellphones and drive faster while doing so.

What's more, according to a new study by NHTSA that has been reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, people spent more time on the distracting task of dialing when they use headsets and voice-activated dialing systems.

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