What's the Latest Development?

This month a law went into effect in California that allows drivers to send and receive texts or e-mails through hands-free or voice-operated systems. Lawmakers said that this would help residents drive more safely, but writer Eric Jaffe argues that the slight improvement found by keeping drivers' fingers and eyes off their devices may not necessarily translate to measurable safety differences. He cites research also presented by the National Safety Council for California, which was a vocal opponent of the law.

What's the Big Idea?

Studies done by University of Utah psychologist David Strayer and others over the years show that "drivers engaged in hands-free communication create weak memories of objects in the driving environment, suggesting a great deal of attention is drawn away from the road." They point out that this is not the same as conversation with passengers in the car, which change according to the driving environment "thereby mitigating the potential negative effects." Jaffe says, "Lawmakers aren't doing the public any favors when they pretend [there's no risk]."

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Read it at The Atlantic Cities