If you think driving and using your cell phone hands-free is much safer than with your hands, you’re in the overwhelming majority. However, you’d be wrong.

A National Safety Council poll reveals that 80 percent of drivers in this country believe driving with a hands-free cell phone system is significantly less distracting that using a hand-held phone. The evidence doesn’t support this assumption.

Hand Held and Hands Free Cell Phone about Equally Distracting for Drivers

For example, a 2013 study by researchers at the University of Utah showed that talking hands-free on a cell phone is only slightly less distracting while driving than using a hand-held device. Drivers, 18 to 30 years old, were monitored under controlled conditions while multi-tasking in a variety of situations. They included talking with passengers, listening to the radio, talking on a cell phone, talking hands-free on a cell phone, and using a voice-activated emailing system.

Listening to the radio or talking with a passenger were on the low end of the distracted driving scale, while using a cell phone, regardless of hands-free or not, ranked higher and about equally, and the speech recognition system was the most distracting.

According to the National Safety Council, the part of the brain that process moving images – everything a driver must note looking through the windshield – slows by as much as one-third when talking or listening on a cell phone. Drivers can miss as much as half of what’s going around them while on a cell phone.

It’s not surprising, then, that according to the National Safety Council, 26 percent of all car crashes in this country involve the use of a cell phone; hands-free versions as well as hand-held.

Hands Free Cell Phone Use as Bad as Driving Drunk

To put it in an even more relatable context, researchers at Touro University in California say that driving using a hands-free cell phone is on par with drunk driving. In 2013, they performed the same field sobriety tests used on suspected drunk drivers on test subjects who were simply talking with someone using a Bluetooth device. More than one quarter – 27.5 percent – of those people failed the sobriety tests.

Distracted drivers who cause accidents resulting in significant injuries or loss of life should be held responsible. If you or a loved has been a victim of a distracted driver, you may want to consult an attorney, who can seek appropriate financial compensation for the harm they’ve caused.