Hidden Dangers for Drivers Using New Hands-free Tech

Think you’ve got it all under control while using in-car hands free technologies?  While driving, how often to you use voice commands to?:

  1. Dial your cell phone?
  2. Play or change music being played?
  3. Create & send Text Messages?

Research from the the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety proves that Mental Distraction from the above activities can linger and impair your focus and reaction times…for as long as 27 seconds AFTER you’ve seemingly completed each task…each and every time you engage one of these tasks.  Cognitive Distraction…the scientific term, impacts driving performance…even if your eyes are on the road…and your hands are on the wheel…as a result of using hands-free technologies in your vehicle.

“The lasting effects of mental distraction pose a hidden and pervasive danger that would likely come as a surprise to most drivers…The results indicate that motorists could miss stop signs, pedestrians and other vehicles while the mind is readjusting to the task of driving.” ~ Peter Kissinger – President and CEO of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety

Ten vehicles from model year 2015…and three (3) different brands of smart phones were compared in the AAA study. The bottom line: ALL systems studied were found to increase mental distraction to potentially unsafe levels.  A 5-point scale was utilized by researchers to quantify the level of distraction.  A rating of two (2) or more on the 5-point scale is considered potentially dangerous when driving.

“The massive increase in voice-activated technologies in cars and phones represents a growing safety problem for drivers,” … “We are concerned that these new systems may invite driver distraction, even as overwhelming scientific evidence concludes that hands-free is not risk free.” ~ Marshall Doney – AAA’s President & CEO

Previous AAA Foundation research established that a category 1 mental distraction is about the same as listening to the radio or an audio book. A category 2 distraction is about the same as talking on the phone, while category 3 is equivalent to sending voice-activated texts on a perfect, error-free system. Category 4 is similar to updating social media while driving, while category 5 corresponds to a highly-challenging, scientific test designed to overload a driver’s attention.

“Developers should aim to reduce mental distractions by designing systems that are no more demanding than listening to the radio or an audiobook,” continued Doney. “Given that the impairing effects of distraction may last much longer than people realize, AAA advises consumers to use caution when interacting with these technologies while behind the wheel.”

Dr. David Strayer and Dr. Joel Cooper of the University of Utah conducted the research. A total of 257 drivers ages 21-70 participated in the study of 2015 model-year vehicles, while 65 additional drivers ages 21-68 tested the three phone systems.

Read More