By now we know the dangers of texting while driving and how distracting talking while driving can be too. Yet, despite the risks, people continue to drive distracted. Automotive companies thought they found a solution to this problem with hands-free devices, including voice acted controls to help drivers keep their eyes on the road and hands on the wheel. However, the American Auto Association’s Foundation for Traffic Safety’s new research shows that the opposite may, in fact, be true.
The AAA Foundation found that drivers using hands-free devices, which include voice-activated systems, were mentally distracted for up to 15 seconds after completing a task, let alone during. Potentially, a driver could suffer up to 27 seconds of distracted driving using a hands-free or voice-activated device. At just 25 mph, that’s the equivalent of driving the length of three football fields blinded folded. These results were consistent even when one of the 257 drivers was using the device at a red light or other lull in traffic.
AAA’s driving distracted research results
AAA Foundation rated the tested systems on five-point scale. A category 1 rating offered a distraction level equivalent of listening to music or an audio book. A category 2 shared the distracting rating of talking on the phone. A category 3 distraction qualified as sending out voice-activated tests on a error-free system. Category 4 is as distracting as posting on social media while driving. And, finally, a category 5 is equivalent to a “highly-challenging, scientific test designed to overload a driver’s attention.
Based on this scale, Google Now received the lowest score at 3.0 and Microsoft Cortana the highest with 3.8. Between them rested Apple Siri at 3.4. The lowest car system tested was the Chevy Equinox at 2.4. Mazada 6 proved the most distracting with a score of 4.6.
The experiment showed that less complicated systems that performed with less errors also caused the driver’s less distraction.
Is there a way to make voice-activated devices safer?
Thankfully, this technology could take a safer turn if the devices themselves were as easy to use as turning on the radio. The study indicated that these complex systems taxes driver mentally, which means that even if they have both hands on the wheel and eyes on the road drivers are at risk. The solution to this is de-complicate these voice-activated and hands-free devices and systems.
The dangers of driving with hands-free or voice-activated driving
As always, we recommend you practice defensive driving, as it is the best protection you can provide yourself in a car. You can take a defensive driving course here, which may also help lower your insurance premium.
While advertised to be safer, this study shows strong evidence to question those claims. Perhaps the misconception presents the most risk, as drivers believe they are being safer when using a hands-free or voice-activated device. Therefore, it’s important to remember the words of AAA’s CEO and president, Marshall Doney, that “overwhelming scientific evidence concludes that hands-free is not risk free.”