Using voice-activated technology to check your email or text while driving could be even more dangerous than talking on a cell phone, according to a new study.
The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that interacting with voice-activated email, for example, was more distracting than using a traditional cellphone — hands-free or hand-held.
From the study:
“Using established research protocols borrowed from aviation psychology and a variety of performance metrics, drivers engaged in common tasks, from listening to an audio book or talking on the phone to listening and responding to voice-activated emails while behind the wheel. Researchers used the results to rate the levels of mental distraction drivers experienced while performing each of the tasks. Similar to the Saffir-Simpson scale used for hurricanes, the levels of mental distraction are represented on a scale:
Tasks such as listening to the radio ranked as a category “1” level of distraction or a minimal risk.
Talking on a cell-phone, both handheld and hands-free, resulted in a “2” or a moderate risk.
Listening and responding to in-vehicle, voice-activated email features increased mental workload and distraction levels of the drivers to a “3” rating or one of extensive risk.”
“These findings reinforce previous research that hands-free is not risk-free,” AAA Foundation President and CEO Peter Kissinger. “Increased mental workload and cognitive distractions can lead to a type of tunnel vision or inattention blindness where motorists don’t see potential hazards right in front of them.”
Drivers who participated in the study, which was conducted by a research team at the University of Utah, wore special cameras and devices that measured eye movements, brain activity and reaction time. Experts say if drivers have voice-activated features in their cars, they should only use them for driving functions.
(Russ Martin of American Automobile Association (AAA), is hooked to an electroencephalographic (EEG)-configured skull cap, during a demonstrations in support of their new study on distracted driving in Landover, Md., Tuesday, June 11, 2013. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
What do you think of the study’s findings? Have you used voice-activated features in a vehicle?