COLUMBIA, Mo. -

Hands-free cell phone devices in vehicles are supposed to be safer, but a new study shows that isn't necessarily true.

On Wednesday, AAA reported in-car phone and GPS devices are more distracting and dangerous than talking with the phone up to your ear.

"They aren't as safe as some people believe they are," said AAA Vice President of Public Affairs Mike Right.

The study states making a call or sending a text or email hands-free creates a driving diversion.

"That increases the likelihood that you're looking but not seeing, you're going to overlook elements in the driving scene like stop signs, pedestrians and things like that because you're having a mental distraction," Right said.

This possibly puts other drivers at risk.

"I think the primary issue is that people need to have a safety consciousness," said Cole County Sheriff Greg White. "It's like getting in the car and putting your seat belt on before you start the engine. You're safety conscious."

Sheriff White says he routinely sees drivers putting on makeup, making calls, even trying to read the newspaper.

White counts the number of drivers not on their phones.

"It's fewer than the ones on the phone, which says something about our society," White said.

According to AAA, more than million cars on the road have what they call infotainment systems.

Researchers hope this will bring attention to the looming public safety crisis because of in-car hands-free devices.