Those high-tech devices in your car that respond to voice commands may be putting you at a higher risk of getting into a car accident, new studies have found.
Research recently published by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reinforces earlier findings that drivers are distracted and unsafe when they use hands-free phones and similar devices.
According to the new findings, voice-activated controls that are increasingly built into cars can cause dangerous driver distractions.
New Research Marks Second Phase of Distracted Driving Studies
In reports released this month, the AAA Foundation explains how researchers developed an evaluation of the mental demands required by voice-activated systems in six vehicles and states that using voice-activated controls increasingly found in new vehicles may actually increase mental distraction.
AAA researchers say that in-vehicle infotainment and communications systems that allow drivers to perform a number of non-driving tasks while behind the wheel are proliferating. Drivers can use these systems to speak and place phone calls and listen to and compose e-mail and text messages.
Last year, AAA said that hands-free use of cell phones and other devices were an identifiable driver distraction that could “potentially result in drivers not seeing items right in front of them, including stop signs and pedestrians.”
In the second phase of AAA’s study, researchers at the University of Utah said voice-activated features “may actually increase mental distraction” in automobiles. Further, the fact that some of these systems actually don’t work very well can increase driver stress and further divert attention from driving, the researchers discovered.
Best Course May Be to Remove All Distractions
Georgia law makes it illegal to use a cell phone or to receive or send a text message while driving, including with a hands-free device. However, as an early look at Georgia’s texting-while-driving ban pointed out, there are practical difficulties in attempting to enforce such a law.
David Strayer, a University of Utah neuroscientist who led the AAA research, issued a statement quoted by The New York Times in which he said that, since voice-activated systems “are here to stay,” the goal is to make them “no more distracting than listening to the radio.”
Individuals who cause accidents due to driving while distracted can be held responsible in civil court as well as criminal court if someone is seriously injured or killed as a result. If someone brings a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit after a car accident, they may be entitled to compensation for medical expenses, lost income and other expenses, as well as non-economic damages for things like pain and suffering.
In the end, it may be best to simply eliminate all intentional distractions while driving, forcing you to focus your attention on the road instead. If a conversation or text message is so important that you cannot wait until you reach your destination to respond to it, then it is important enough to pull over an stop so you can respond without risking harm to yourself or others.