Hands-free phone call while driving is still a major safety issue according to research conducted by AAA and University of Utah.The research states that the driver may overlook stop signs, pedestrians as well as other fellow drivers because all part of mind is not concentrated toward driving, thus leading to accidents.
I think as a society we need to realize that any kind of phone call is a distraction while driving. Driving is something that takes all of your attention and nothing less. I can't drive down the road without almost having an accident and it's getting really old. Stop using your phone in the car period. It's just not safe.
Imagine that you are driving and conversing with a passenger. You need to make a left turn without a light, you need to change lanes, or a deer runs across the road. Your passenger can see that you need to concentrate and waits to continue the conversation. Someone who is on the phone with you has no idea what is going on and will babble on, possibly causing an accident.
No I do not think they are just as distracting as non hands free phone calls. They are about as distracting as talking to somebody while you are driving or singing. They are not as distracting as non hands free though because you do not have to look away from the road.