Even hands-free talking distracts
ENRIQUE MAR, driver safety consultant: This guy is going to be aggressive.
ANGIE CROUCH: Oh, my God.
ANGIE CROUCH: To understand how cell phones affect driver behavior, we met Enrique Mar. He's a driver safety consultant and he owns a company that builds driving simulators.
After getting the hang of driving this virtual road, I started taking calls.
Hello. It's Angie.
First, with the illegal hand-to-phone method.
Yes, not as easy as I thought.
OK, so what happened? What did I do wrong?
ENRIQUE MAR: The beginning of the call was good. You were perceptive to the dangers, but then you got comfortable in the cell phone conversation. Your mind wandered, and you had an accident.
ANGIE CROUCH: Is that pretty typical?
ENRIQUE MAR: Typical. Typical.
ANGIE CROUCH: Although my driving was better when I talked on my hands-free device...
Hello. It's Angie.
... I still was far from a model motorist.
Trying to drive and talk on the phone at the same time.
ENRIQUE MAR: As you activate your hands-free, you have a tendency to start swerving. As soon as you receive a phone call, we do see a change in your driving habits.
If I was a police officer, I would have probably suspected that you were under the influence, because you were swerving that much.
ANGIE CROUCH: Under the influence of my cell phone?
ENRIQUE MAR: Correct, under the influence of your cell phone.
ANGIE CROUCH: Science seems to back this up.
Using MRI scans, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University found that motorists who drove while on the phone showed a sharp decline in activity in the brain's parietal lobe, a region associated with driving attention and skill.
Although Enrique Mar loves his cars, the more exotic and faster, the better, he says he has sworn off using cell phones entirely while he's behind the wheel.
ENRIQUE MAR: In my particular case, I see the cause and effect of -- of driving and using a cell phone. So, therefore, I don't use a cell phone while I'm driving.
ANGIE CROUCH: As for Austin Barker, he's turned his wheelchair into a rolling protest against cell phones while driving.
AUSTIN BARKER: People just need to understand that on the other end of that phone is the possibility of you causing a horrific accident and taking somebody's brother, sister, mother, father, cousin away from them.
And people just don't understand that. They just -- they just don't get it, until it actually happens to them.
ANGIE CROUCH: Although some safety advocates favor a ban on both handheld and hands-free calling from the car, that idea is currently considered a political non-starter in California.