BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Experts say hands-free technology is safe to use behind the wheel, but a new study by AAA Mid-Atlantic suggests these popular features may actually increase distraction.

Rochelle Ritchie explains why.

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Once several states made it a primary offense to talk or text on your cell phone while driving, car companies started installing hands-free systems inside their vehicles. Now WJZ has learned they may not be as safe as first thought.

Hands-free technology is a way to keep drivers from being distracted. But a new report by AAA Mid-Atlantic says it’s the imperfect hands-free systems that can cause people behind the wheel to lose focus on the road.

“The reality is that whether you’re on a phone using a handheld or hands-free device or doing other things hands-free in your vehicle, the actual risk of you being involved in a crash quadruples,” said Ragina Averella, AAA spokesperson.

The new research says three out of four Americans believe hands-free technology is safe to use, but researchers suggest drivers limit the use of most voice-based technologies.

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“Because of the cognitive use, the fact that you’re using your mind, it is actually in some cases more distracting than it would be otherwise,” Averella said.

AAA researchers suggest manufacturers make their hands-free technology less complicated, more accurate and easier to use.

“We really encourage motorists to limit their use of these voice technology based devices in their car unless absolutely necessary,” said Averella

AAA says this research does not apply to the use of Bluetooth.

AAA is working with lawmakers and manufacturers to make improvements to hands-free devices.

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