640px-Cell_phone_use_while_drivingApril is Distracted Driving Awareness Month, and the National Safety Council wants you to “Take Back Your Drive.” What does that mean? It means you do a little something for yourself while you’re driving: You give yourself the gift of safety.

The NSC is urging people to focus on being less distracted. By now we all know it’s bad to text and talk on hand-held phones, but more than 30 studies have shown that hands-free devices are just as bad—and might even be worse. Here are some interesting facts:

  • Drivers talking on hands-free devices can fail to see 50% of their surroundings
  • Activity in the part of the brain that detects movement decreases by 1/3 when listening or talking on the distracted drivingphone (hands-free or hand-held)
  • Hands-free features in dashboards can increase distraction
  • Using voice-to-text features can be more distracting than typing them, in part because of frustration with the feature “hearing” things incorrectly

The NSC says that people believe hands-free systems must be safe if they’re built into cars, but the reality is that they’re not. The organization is urging people to take its Focused Driver Challenge, which includes pledging not to have any phone conversations in the car, not to send texts by typing or dictating them, and not to enter GPS destinations while the car is moving, among other things.

You can’t control what other drivers do, but you can go a long way in making yourself and your family safer by being the best driver you can be.