The latest in technology – voice-activated programs in cars that allow drivers to text or write emails with voice commands instead of with their hands – was marketed as very safe, much safer than texting and driving with the phone in your hands. However, a new study from AAA finds that regardless of the technology, the practice still creates distracted drivers and is therefore still dangerous.
Researchers released study findings on Wednesday, June 12th. They discovered that hands-free technologies are not significantly safer than hand-held devices. Speech-to-text systems, which allow users to write and send emails and texts, as well as scroll through or delete messages, require greater concentration from drivers than other distracting activities like talking on the phone or to a passenger, or listening to music or a book on tape.
According to the study, the greater the concentration required to perform a task, the more likely the driver is to develop “tunnel vision” or “inattention blindness.” Rather than scanning the roadway or checking their mirrors, drivers look straight ahead, but fail to see objects, stop lights, or people in front of them.
“People aren’t seeing what they need to see to drive. That’s the scariest part to me,” said Peter Kissinger, president and CEO of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, the group’s safety research arm. “Police accident investigative reports are filled with comments like the ‘looked, but did not see.’ That’s what drivers tell them. We used to think they were lying, but now we know that’s actually true.”
“We believe there is a public safety crisis looming,” AAA spokeswoman Yolanda Cade said. “We hope this study will change some widely held misconceptions by motorists.”
AAA officials took their findings to automakers, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and other safety advocates. AAA suggested that in-vehicle, voice or manual commands should be limited strictly to “core driving tasks.”
The study conducted by AAA is not the first to compare the two methods of texting and driving, and other tests have come up with similar results. However, the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration study, conducted using drivers’ real-world driving experiences, found that using hands-free devices to text and drive was safer than hands-on.
David Strayer, an expert on cognitive distraction and lead author of the study, which was conducted by the University of Utah on behalf of AAA, said that the difference between speaking to a computer and speaking to a person was the computer’s ability to understand commands. Although the study used a very high-fidelity system which made no errors, humans had to know the exact commands, such as “Call Home,” and not misinterpret the command as “Call Home Depot.” Most systems currently in vehicles are not so good at comprehending human voices, Strayer pointed out. He added that synthetic computer voices are harder for people to understand, which meant people had to focus much harder on the computer’s voice, drawing attention away from the road.
“The complexity of trying to say something that is coherent when there is no feedback is much more difficult,” Strayer said. “The more complex and the longer those interactions are, the more likely you are going to have impairments when you’re driving.”
AT&T Hosts Campaign on Texting and Driving Dangers in Columbia
AT&T will host another part of their anti-texting and driving campaign in Columbia, SC soon.
Company representatives at AT&T restail stores will give customers and the public a chance to use a simulator that they say shows how dangerous it is to text and drive. In February this year, the company took their texting and driving simulator to the Statehouse, where both lawmakers and the public could try the device.
According to AT&T, texting and driving is extremely dangerous. Their statistics show that drivers who text and drive are 23 times more likely to be involved in an accident than non-texting drivers.
The Strom Law Firm Prosecutes Texting and Driving
If you have been injured by a distracted driver, including one who was texting and driving, the attorneys at the Strom Law Firm can help. Our South Carolina car accident lawyers are prepared to fight for compensation in the courtroom and will defend your right to compensation for your past and future medical bills, lost wages and future earnings, your pain and suffering, and, in the event of a fatal car accident, even wrongful death. We offer free consultations to discuss the facts of your case, so do not hesitate to contact us. 803.252.4800.