Laws related to cell phone use and education campaigns related to distracted driving usually stress the dangers of handheld phone devices. In fact, drivers may be required to use hands-free tools or urged to make use of Bluetooth and text-to-speech as a means of reducing the risk of a distracted driving crash.
Unfortunately, recent studies indicate that hands-free devices may not actually be any safer than using a phone that you are holding onto. Our Tuscaloosa accident lawyers know that your brain is still focused on something other than the road whenever you are texting or talking, regardless of whether you have a hands-free device or not.
The recent studies confirm not only that you face cognitive distractions from the use of a hands-free phone but also that texting via voice may be even more dangerous than sending a text the old fashioned way.
Voice-Activated Phones Present Significant Car Accident Risk
Recently, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety took an in-depth look into the dangers of voice-control systems in vehicles. Radio Iowa reported on the study, which has been called the most comprehensive study ever done on hands-free “infotainment” systems.
The AAA Study focused on high-tech gadgets that allow for voice control of telephones, wipers and radio stations. Using cameras mounted on the dashboard to track head and eye movement, a skull cap to monitor brain wave activity, and a device to measure reactive time, researchers determined that using voice controls of any type can be very distracting. What’s more, many drivers aren’t even aware that they are distracted.
While these drivers may not be aware of the fact that their brains are dangerously distracted, the fact is that the use of the voice control systems had a significant impact on their ability to concentrate on the road. As CNBC reported, AAA studies show that drivers using a hands-free device are at least twice as distracted as those not on a cell phone. The use of a speech-to-text in car communication system also increased the car accident risk threefold.
The National Safety Council acknowledged the results of the AAA study, confirming that the use of voice-controlled devices is a significant cognitive distraction. As the NSC explained, the human brain is not capable of simultaneously performing the tasks necessary to safely drive a car at the same time as the brain is doing other cognitively demanding tasks such as holding a phone conversation or talking to their phone and telling the phone to text.
Unfortunately, drivers who are using these hands-free devices to talk or to control other in-car systems may not even know they are in danger. As many as 71 percent of drivers responding to an earlier AAA study indicated that they believed using hands-free devices were risk free and around half of all drivers indicated that infotainment systems aren’t distracting.
Drivers who don’t think there is a risk and who don’t realize they are distracted are, unfortunately, taking their own life and the lives of others into their hands without being aware of the clear-and-present danger. In response to these new studies, it is important for every driver to make a new commitment to avoiding distracted driving of all types, even the hands-free kind of distractions.
Alabama Traffic Safety Watch: More Teen Drivers Die Texting Than Drinking, Alabama Injury Attorneys Blog, May 19, 2013