10:44 AM

Study: Hands-Free Cell Phones No Safer Than Hand-Helds

Study by insurance industry group concludes that laws restricting hand-held cell phone use in cars are ineffective. It found that all types of cell phone use contribute to accidents.

State legislatures considering laws to restrict cell phone use in moving vehicles would be best advised to forget the measures, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) response to a study finding that even hands-free phone devices don't reduce crashes.

"GHSA urges state legislatures to refrain from enacting hand-held cell phone bans because such bans send an incorrect message to drivers that as long as they are hands-free, they are safe," said Colonel Jim Champagne, GHSA Chair, in a statement.

"The message is clear: Drivers should not use ANY type of cell phone behind the wheel."

The study, appearing Tuesday in the British Medical Journal, was conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a U.S. insurance industry organization. Studying accident victims in Australia, the survey found that drivers using cell phones were four times as likely to be involved in an accident as those who weren't using cell phones. The study found, too, that hands-free devices were no safer than phones held to drivers' ears.

The study was conducted in Australia because accident records were more complete there than elsewhere.

Several states including New York and New Jersey make it illegal to use hand-held cell phones while driving. Several other states have enacted similar legislation or are considering such legislation.

"It makes sense to have a law that would make it illegal to use any type of phone while driving, but it would be very difficult to enforce," Anne McCartt, an Insurance Institute researcher, told the Wall Street Journal.

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