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Study raises questions about hands-free cellphones

California residents are subject to some of the nation's strictest distracted driving laws, but motorists in the Golden State are still permitted to make phone calls or send text messages as long as the devices they use feature hands-free technology. However, a study released by researchers at the University of Texas suggests that hands-free features may not make cellphones any safer for drivers to use.

The research team reached this surprising conclusion after observing how reading and sending text messages affected the driving of 20 campus volunteers. The students were placed in an advanced driving simulator and used both a standard cellphone and a Google Glass device to read and reply to messages. The research team used the Google device because it allows drivers to read text messages while keeping their eyes on the road as well as their hands on the wheel.

The researchers were not surprised to find that the volunteers were less distracted by the Google Glass device, but they quickly learned that these safety benefits were temporary. Being able to read messages while remaining focused on driving made the students more confident and more likely to text while behind the wheel according to the research team, and this negated virtually all of the initial safety benefit.

Distracted driving accidents claim the lives of several road users every day in the United States, and the families of these car crash victims are often left in extremely precarious financial positions. Bills can mount quickly when a family breadwinner is killed, and unexpected expenses like medical bills and funeral costs can make a difficult situation completely unmanageable. However, the dependent family members of accident victims may pursue civil remedies when negligent behavior may have contributed to the death of their loved ones, and experienced personal injury attorneys may pursue wrongful death litigation on their behalf seeking compensation for their losses.

Source: The Sacramento Bee, "California's strict new law: Drivers, put down that cellphone", Tony Bizjak, Dec. 27, 2017

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