Hands-free technology doesn't mean safer driving

Hands-free technology doesn't mean safer driving
Hands-free technology still distracts drivers. (Source: WOIO)
Hands-free technology still distracts drivers. (Source: WOIO)

Most drivers believe that hands-free technology is safe to use and makes them better drivers. However, these popular new vehicle features may actually increase distracted driving.

Tom Flory loves to use the voice recognition in his car to make phone calls.

"A call comes in, I press the button on the steering wheel, and I'm talking to the person that's calling," said Flory.

As the general manager at Park Honda in Akron, Flory says hands-free devices are a safe option for people who need to communicate on the go.

But a new study by AAA suggests that hands-free devices still cause a significant distraction for drivers. AAA encourages drivers to minimize distraction by limiting the use of most voice-based technologies.

"We already know that drivers can miss stop signs, pedestrians and other cars while using voice technologies because their minds are not fully focused on the road ahead," said Bob Darbelnet, CEO of AAA. We now understand that current shortcomings in these products, intended as safety features, may unintentionally cause greater levels of cognitive distraction."

New research by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety suggest that developers can improve the safety of their products by making them less complicated, more accurate and generally easier to use.

The study used instrumented test vehicles, heart-rate monitors and other equipment designed to measure reaction times and ranked common voice-activated interactions and the distraction generated.

Flory suggests that before you get behind the wheel, learn how your system works to prevent problems on the road.

"What we find is most people try to use these features while they're driving and don't fully understand the features, and that's even more of a distraction," explained Flory.

AAA is calling for developers to address key contributing factors to mental distraction, including complexity, accuracy and time on task with the goal of making systems that are no more demanding than listening to the radio or an audiobook. AAA also plans to use the findings to continue a dialogue with policy makers, safety advocates and manufacturers.

Visit AAA for the full report.

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