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While most drivers in New Jersey will agree that using a cellphone while behind the wheel is unsafe, they may not think that conversing with passengers in the car is as big a risk. A meta-analysis recently published in the journal Human Factors states otherwise. The analysis took into account various experimental studies that measured driving performance amid conversations.

The conclusion is that any conversation whatsoever will impair a driver’s situational awareness. In-person conversations were shown to have a negative effect on a driver’s ability to stay in his or her lane and to maintain appropriate speed and distance from other cars. Handheld cellphone use is particularly distracting with many drivers failing to look left and right and check their rear-view mirrors as often as they should.

Hands-free cellphones, while allowing drivers to keep both hands on the steering wheel, still reduced their attention. Dialing a cellphone was determined to be as dangerous as texting because it took drivers’ eyes completely off the road. Though speed dialing and voice command eliminate this danger, it’s still best that drivers refrain from cellphone use. Currently, 15 states prohibit the use of handheld phones, and texting is illegal in 47 states.

In many car collisions, it’s clear who caused the accident. Regardless of whether the driver was texting or simply engrossed in conversation with a passenger, the victim may have the grounds for an injury claim with that driver’s insurance company. Attorneys may be able to help in the filing of third-party insurance claims and negotiate on clients’ behalf for the maximum settlement. They might hire accident investigators, photographers, medical experts and others to gather proof of negligence and show the extent of the injuries. A successful claim may cover medical bills, vehicle repair costs, lost wages and more.