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Mobiles, cars don’t gel even with latest equipment

Stockholm, June 23 (Reuters): Talking on a mobile phone while driving your car is just as dangerous when using hands-free equipment as when holding the phone in your hand, according to a Swedish study published today.

The National Road Administration (SNRA) tested 48 people in driving simulators, dividing them into two groups — one with and the other without hands-free mobile phone devices.

The drivers in both groups received about 10 phone calls each during 1.5 hours of simulated driving in different conditions. The test revealed almost no difference in reaction time between the two groups.

“It is the distraction of the phone conversation that is the problem,” the SNRA director general, said. But laws often permit hands-free gadgets with headphones or loudspeakers, and millions of cellphone users have installed such devices.

The Swedish findings were in line with a recent report in the Psychological Science journal, which suggested hands-free technology may not reduce the risk of accidents because a driver’s attention, rather than problems with physically handling a cell phone, is a more important factor in safe driving.

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