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Is a hands-free cellphone a safer alternative for Illinois drivers?

Illinois is among the states with the strictest distracted driving laws in the nation. Under Illinois law, texting while driving is prohibited for all drivers. Additionally, the law forbids the use of handheld cellphones while behind the wheel. To comply with this law, many drivers in the state have switched to hands-free cellphone models. Although they are often thought of as being safer than their handheld counterparts, in reality, studies have shown that hands-free models are just as dangerous, primarily because they cause cognitive distractions.

Cognitive distractions

Cognitive distractions are one of the three primary types of distractions. Unlike visual and manual distractions, which require drivers to take their eyes off the road and remove their hands from the steering wheel respectively, cognitive distractions affect the driver's brain. In a nutshell, they occur when the driver's brain is thinking about something other than the task of driving.

According to a study by the National Safety Council, multitasking is virtually impossible, due to the limitations of the human brain. Instead of performing two tasks simultaneously, the brain can only switch between the two tasks regularly. Because of this fact, if a motorist is using a handheld or hands-free cellphone, there are times when the brain's focus is on the conversation, instead of the surrounding environment. Because of this "inattention blindness," the driver's ability to react quickly to pedestrians, hazards on the road, slowing traffic and other obstacles is significantly compromised.

A study published by AAA compared the level of distraction experienced by drivers performing certain tasks. These tasks included listening to the radio, talking with passengers, and talking on a handheld cellphone and a hands-free one. The study found that there was virtually no difference in the amount of distraction created by the use of the two different types of cellphones.

If injured, speak with an attorney

Although driving while using hands-free cellphones is legal in Illinois for most, it is unlikely that the law is making the roads significantly safer. Under Illinois law, if you are injured in a car accident with a driver using a cellphone (whether it is handheld or hands-free), you may have the right to seek compensation of your medical bills, lost wages and other losses stemming from the accident.

Since the laws surrounding eligibility for compensation are very complex, it is important to get legal advice as soon as possible following the accidents. Failing to do so can severely compromise your rights. The attorneys at Brady and Jensen, LLP can listen to your situation and advise you further on the legal remedies available to you.

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