The Portland Press Herald recently published an editorial (Our View, June 26) advocating against the use of hands-free phones in vehicles in Maine.

This is not a realistic position to take simply because it:

Infringes upon basic rights (conversation).

Would adversely impact people’s productivity.

Will not survive against powerful cellphone lobbies.

Is not based on unanimous research; some researchers have found that use of a cellphone in a vehicle is no more distracting than talking to someone else in the vehicle.

Here is one study that underlines the fourth point above:

In simulation studies, psychologist David Strayer and colleagues at the University of Utah tested people in a simulator doing various distracting things while driving. Against a baseline of just plain driving, which rated a 1.0 in terms of level of distraction, here’s what those tests found:

Listening to the radio – 1.21.

Listening to a book on tape – 1.75.

Talking with a passenger in the front seat – 2.33.

Talking on a hand-held cellphone – 2.45.

Talking on a hands-free cellphone – 2.27.

Interacting with a speech recognition e-mail or text system – 3.06.

Conclusion: Using a hands-free cellphone is less distracting than talking with another person in the car, and using a hand-held cellphone is more distracting, so the logical conclusion of this data would be to legislate against carrying on a conversation with another person in the vehicle if one is to legislate against use of hands-free cellphone use … which is clearly ridiculous!

Rick Kelley