Would you text while driving? Of course not! most people will say. But, many of those same people use "hands-free" devices while driving even though the evidence says it's not that much better.Well, this is just as bad.
Many people then wonder: Why is talking with a person who is in the car with you often less distracting than talking on the phone? Shouldn't they be equally dangerous? Are they going to outlaw talking in the car?
Well, it turns out that it has everything to do with the the person seeing what the driver is seeing. A person in the passenger seat hopefully knows to stop talking or may even warn the driver when there is something to pay attention to on the road. A person on the phone has no idea what's going on and will just keep gabbing. This creates the tension. The driver is trying to focus on the road, but the person on the phone isn't pausing or helping like a passenger should. (And not all passengers are helpful, if they are not aware of what is going on on the road they are just as bad as talking on the phone.)
I always thought the study that showed this to be true (from about 10 years back) was pretty neat. It's one of those studies that takes what most people assume to be true and just blows it out of the water. I love that. It's taken a long time for this to percolate into to the "industry" -- in the meantime some manufacturers have tried to incorporate hands free devices in to cars and this has doubtless cost many live in indirect and direct ways.
Sadly, most people think that "hands free" mean "safe for driving" but the problem with talking on the phone while in the car has nothing to do with your hands! Now that AAA has said so maybe drivers and car manufactures will listen.
My foot was broken by a driver who was talking hands free. And he probably still thinks it's safe. It's not. Stop the car or hang up, that's the only way to be safe. There is no such thing as a technology that makes phones conversations or text messages safe by being "hands free."