Mobiles in cars: Hands-free just as dangerous

Bluetooth "could contribute to even more crashes"

Bluetooth "could contribute to even more crashes"

A study from an Australian university has concluded that using a mobile phone - with or without a hands-free kit - increases a driver's risk of crashing.

The report, by researchers from the George Institute for International Health at the University of Sydney and published in the British Medical Journal, examined 456 drivers from the city of Perth in western Australia and discovered that phone use has a dramatic effect on the likelihood of a driver having a crash that requires hospital treatment.

The study found that those who used a mobile while on the road were four times as likely to end up in hospital as a result of a crash than drivers who didn't use their mobiles.

However, the research also discovered that "there is no safety advantage associated with switching to the types of hands-free devices that are commonly in use".

Some types of hands-free kits may be distracting, and therefore more likely to cause crashes than others, the study suggests. It reads: "For example, searching for an earpiece to answer an incoming call may be more distracting than answering a phone mounted in a hands-free kit."

The advent of cars equipped with short-range technologies such as Bluetooth will not make using a mobile any safer, according to the research.

"More and more new vehicles are being equipped with Bluetooth technology, facilitating voice activation and therefore totally hands-free phone use.

"Though this may lead to few handheld phones used while driving in the future, our research indicates that this may not remove the risk. Importantly, if this new technology actually increases mobile phone use in cars it could contribute to even more crashes," the report concludes.