Study Finds Voice-to-Text is Just as Distracting as Manual Texting

If you are under the assumption that hands-free texting is safer than manual texting, think again. A recent study published by AAA found that using voice-to-text devices are extremely dangerous and mentally distracting despite the fact that they are hands free.

The study comes in wake of a new projected five-fold increase of vehicles with elaborate infotainment systems, by 2018. With more and more cars with “smart” technology joining the road today, AAA is requesting its research be taken into consideration by car and tech manufacturers.
“It’s time to consider limiting new and potentially dangerous mental distractions built into cars, particularly with the common misperception that hands-free means risk-free,” Lloyd P. Albert, AAA Southern New England Senior Vice President of Public and Government Affairs said.

AAA’s study, which was conducted at the University of Utah, found that as these mental distractions increase:

• Reaction time slows • Brain function is compromised • Drivers scan the road less and miss visual cues, which may result in drivers missing objects in front of them such as pedestrians, or running stop signs and traffic signals.

Dr. David Strayer, a cognitive distraction expert at the University of Utah, and his research team, measured brainwaves and eye movements of drivers to evaluate the effects of multitasking and using devices while driving on mental workloads. The team conducted a series of tests and used cameras inside an instrumented car to track drivers’ eye movements, detection-response-task (DRT) devices to record driver responses, as well as a special electroencephalographic (EEG)-configured skull cap to measure brain activity so that researchers could determine drivers’ mental workloads.

Subjects performed a series of tasks while driving including, listening to the radio, talking on the cell phone (both handheld and hands-free) and listening and responding to in-vehicle, voice-activated email features, and researchers rated these tasks on a scale of 1 to 5 (with 5 being the highest level of distraction). Researchers concluded that listening to the radio ranked as a category “1” level distraction or minimal risk. Talking on a cell-phone or passenger in a car ranked in category “2” and posed moderate risks.

Finally, though hands-free, using voice-to-text devices such as smart phones or GPSs showed to have the highest level of mental distraction and ranked in the level “3” category. Researchers found that drivers engaging in category “3” distractions had a 25% delay response, as compared to a 15% delay response with category “2” distractions.

Since publishing the data, AAA has urged the automotive and electronic industry to explore implementing limited voice-activated technology into new cars; such as climate control, windshield wipers, and cruise control, and to ensure that these types of devices do not pose significant safety risks while the car is moving. AAA also advised that car companies consider eliminating functionalities such as voice-to-text technologies such as using social media or email while the car is in motion. Lastly, AAA has called for more education for vehicle owners and mobile device users about the responsible use and safety risks for in-vehicle technologies. The study one of the most in-depth analyses of mental distractions while driving, and according to Albert, AAA is hopeful that the research provides a stepping stone for automakers and tech companies to promote safer driving.

Distracted driving is a growing problem in the United States and we continue to see more and more accidents caused by text messaging, cell phone use, and other distractions. In fact, an estimated 20% of all accidents in the United States result because of distracted driving. Last week in Mendon, MA, for example, an 18-year old woman who was distracted by her GPS struck and killed a man who was walking on the side of the road.

If you or a loved one were a victim in a car accident because of another’s negligence due to distracted driving, call one of the experience Boston Car Accident Lawyers at Altman & Altman for a free consultation. While some car accidents result in minor fender benders, many do result in serious personal injury. As a victim of a car accident, you may be concerned about who will pay for your medical bills and any other expenses directly related the injury you sustained. Our attorneys have nearly 50 years of experience dealing car accident cases and have the resources necessary to negotiate the highest possible settlements so you get the compensation you deserve.

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