A law in California is now in effect that makes it legal to receive or send emails or text on your phone while driving if it's done through voice commands. But the idea that hands-free interaction with your phone makes for a safe driving experience is a false one. The National Safety Council has called for a repeal of the law based on research conducted that shows high levels of distraction while using voice functions with a phone.
In that research study [PDF], drivers on a closed course were monitored while operating a car, driving while texting by hand and driving while using their phone via voice command. While the hands-free texting while driving was less dangerous than the hands-on texting, the level of distraction shown by the hands-free drivers was equivalent to that of drivers with a 0.08% blood alcohol content (the legal limit for drunk driving in California.) That is, they looked away from road for long periods of time, had a slower brake reaction, and didn't focus on the driving obstacles ahead of them as well as they should.
It appears our minds are more distracted when interacting with our phones while driving than with, say, talking to a passenger. So though it's legal in California to check your emails by voice or dictate a text while driving, consider if you want to engage in an activity that impairs your driving ability to that of a legally drunk driver.
Solutions to avoid the temptation include AT&T's app that autoreplies to texts when detecting speeds over 25MPH (T-Mobile has one, too) and there are physical devices that will disable all cell phone activity in a moving car if you need enforce safe usage with a teen.
[via The Atlantic Cities]