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Hands-free devices may not solve problems of distracted driving

Distracted driving has been in the news a lot lately and as the desire to stay connected using newer forms of communication technology evolves, the discussion about the dangers of distracted driving will only grow. The development of hands-free technology may reduce the level of distraction behind the wheel; however, some safety advocates do not believe the roads will become any safer because of the technology.

Today, more and more car manufacturers are offering and developing in-vehicle hands-free communication options. General Motors recently released a product that works with OnStar that allows drivers to send and receive texts and also allows Facebook updates while behind the wheel. Voice command communications technology within vehicles will be the wave of the near future. Current systems remove the distractions of hand-held devices by using voice commands to enter addresses into navigation systems or using voice commands to select music. Future voice command systems will read e-mails and allow drivers to compose e-mails. Business folks as well as young people crave the new technology.

While the benefits of hand-free communication technology may remove the gadget from the driver's hand, it is not clear the technology will reduce distractions on the road and therefore car accidents. Representatives of the National Transportation Safety Board say the primary responsibility of a driver is the safety of passengers and fellow drivers on the road; not to engage in social activity. Recent studies show that texting while driving is just as dangerous as drunk driving and that a driver is 23 times more likely to get into a car accident if texting behind the wheel. The NTSB admits hands-free technology reduces distraction but argues the technology does not eliminate it.

Source: news4jax.com, "Cars help more devices go hands-free," 2/28/11

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