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Voice-activated systems are not a distracted-driving solution

In our last post, we mentioned that California is one of only about a dozen states to ban the use of handheld cellphones and other electronic devices behind the wheel. The reasoning is that these devices take a driver’s hands off the wheel in addition to taking his eyes and mind off of the road.

Naturally, automakers and mobile device manufacturers have rushed to find hands-free alternatives that let drivers continue using their phones while driving. Voice commands appear to be the wave of the future. It should be noted, however, that hands-free does not mean distraction-free. In fact, recent research has shown that voice-activation technology may be as distracting as or more distracting than using a handheld device.

In some cases, the study found, the distraction was largely the result of bad voice-recognition software that doesn’t accurately hear commands and follow them. Although Apple’s “Siri” really started the trend of interacting with technology via voice command, Siri was actually the most distracting system.

Previous studies on hands-free technology have suggested that voice-activation could prove to be more distracting than a handheld device because most of us aren’t really used to interacting with technology in this way. Therefore, it takes as much or more brainpower to execute a command on your phone.

Regardless of whether you use a handheld cellphone or a voice-activated device, your car accident risk will be higher than it would be if you just focused on driving. Safe driving will always be a choice, and it must be a choice we make each and every time we get behind the wheel.

Source: The New York Times, “Voice Activation Systems Distract Drivers, Study Says,” Matt Richtel, Oct. 7, 2014

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