Voice-activated devices that let drivers talk and text without taking their hands off the wheel may not be as distraction-free as many had hoped. A new study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reveals that hands-free technology may pose a safety hazard.

According to AAA’s report, mental distractions can intrude on a driver’s ability to navigate in a careful manner. While keeping eyes on the road and hands on the wheel is important, if the mind is diverted, the driver’s judgment could be compromised. Research finds that as distractions increase, reaction time slows.

In fact, the more concentration needed to perform a task such as using speech-to-text systems, the more likely a driver develops what researchers term “tunnel vision” or “inattention blindness.” As drivers scan email or create text messages through hands-free phone set-ups, they tend to stop watching the road, ignore side and rearview mirrors and fail to see what’s in front of them until it’s too late.

AAA officials worry that a public safety crisis is looming because of the misconception that hands-free technology keeps people out of harm’s way.

Details of Study

AAA’s study was conducted at the University of Utah by researchers who examined brainwaves, eye movement, driving performance and other related indicators of 32 students. Cameras were mounted inside cars to track drivers’ eye and head movements as they carried out a secondary tasks, including listening to music and sending emails.

Vehicles were equipped with a device that drivers pressed to record reaction time to red and green lights in their field of vision. In addition, drivers were fitted with a special cap to note brain activity.

Participants were tested while driving a three-mile loop in Salt Lake City, while driving in a simulator and while not driving. A researcher with a back-up brake system accompanied the drivers who were actually operating a motor vehicle.

This research found that voice commands can be extremely distracting for drivers. They often require more concentration than simply speaking to another person in a car. Also, computer voices can be more difficult to understand than human voices. Therefore, they demand more attention from the driver.

In a briefing with automakers, safety advocates and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, AAA representatives advised that in-vehicle, voice-driven technologies be limited to “core driving tasks.”

Need Legal Help?

Car accidents can take place without any warning. But when a driver is engaged in any type of distraction, even from a hands-free device, the likelihood of having a collision can dramatically increase. If you or a loved one has been injured in a South Carolina automobile accident because of somebody else’s negligence, you may need legal advice. Contact our South Carolina personal injury attorneys at Joye Law Firm at (877) 941-2615 or use our online form.

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