At our Phoenix personal injury law firm we know all too well that distracted driving is dangerous driving. Mental distractions are an easy trigger for unintentional driving err and vehicle collisions which cause many of our personal injury cases. According to a recent study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety hands-free technology in vehicles actually increases mental distraction. This may be a surprise for many, as three out of four drivers believe these systems are safe to use. The study, conducted at the University of Utah, evaluated the hands-free, voice-activated systems and ranked them based on the level of cognitive distraction each device caused. The ranks were appointed based on a five-category ranking system developed in a similar University of Utah study in 2013:
- Category 1 distraction, listening to the radio
- Category 2 distraction, talking on a hand-held or hands-free cell phone
- Category 3 distraction, using a speech-to-text system to listen to or write a text or email
- Category 4 distraction, studied separately, the use of Apple's Siri (version iOS 7) despite being hands- and eye-free
- Category 5 distractions, the study required a driver to complete a complex math and memorization test while driving
The study concluded that the accuracy and reliability of the voice recognition software greatly influence cognitive distraction, rated at a 3 with low accuracy. Using these systems to generate messages was more distracting, level 3, than using them to just listen to messages, level 2. Also, whether the voice was natural or computer generated had no sway on the level of distraction.
It is possible for these devices to be improved. The research conducted advocates that developers can make improvements to the accuracy and ease of use in hands-free technologies to make its use as safe as possible. At present, it is best to limit use of hands-free software in vehicles to prevent mental distraction.
Visit the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety or the University of Utah’s News Center webpages for complete articles and to find the rankings of hands-free technologies currently used by different manufacturers.