DEAR MS. SMARTPHONE: MY HUSBAND AND I HAVE A DISAGREEMENT. HE SAYS THAT IT IS SAFE TO USE A HANDS-FREE PHONE WHEN HE DRIVES. HE SAYS IT IS NO DIFFERENT THAN TALKING TO A PASSENGER SITTING IN THE FRONT SEAT. I DISAGREE, AND I TRY NOT TO USE MY PHONE IN THE CAR AT ALL. Candace, Burlingame.
Dear Candace: You have asked a great question, and there is no single answer to the question of whether you can drive safely while talking on a hands-free smartphone. It is going to depend on attention factors. Is the road wide-open road or is there traffic cutting in? It is also going to depend on the conversation, is it ‘yes’ and ‘no’ or is it emotional and involved? Talking with a passenger is generally safer because passengers look ahead and alert the driver to dangers by subtle changes in voice or tone. The person at the other end of the smartphone is clueless about what’s going on outside the windshield. If you contact me via email, I will send you more resources on this.