You know you could receive a ticket if law enforcement catches you with a phone in your hand. However, most new cars connect to your phone, so you can still call people, have your text messages read to you and even answer them without breaking the law.
Is this really safer, though?
Using hands-free systems
According to research by AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, the amount of mental workload caused by many of the in-vehicle, hands-free systems ranges from moderate to high demand. Some systems take the same amount of focus that you may need for balancing your checkbook.
The complexity of the system can take drivers’ full attention off the road for as long as 48 seconds for the more involved GPS programming features. The GPS programming functions for the easiest systems took around 33 seconds. Drivers may have their eyes on the road during much of this time, but the cognitive distraction levels are significant.
Researchers recommend system designs that require no more focus than listening to the radio or an audiobook: the lowest forms of mental distraction.
Talking on the phone
What about simply talking on your hands-free device? The American Psychological Association reports that any cellphone conversation is so mentally distracting that a driver’s skills are comparable to a drunk driver’s.
In studies, reaction times during phone conversations increased significantly. Eye-tracking devices in simulation studies revealed that even though drivers may direct their eyes toward an object, they did not “see” it. Some phone conversations also reduce visual scanning, further limiting a driver’s ability to detect and respond to traffic cues.