According to findings from a recent survey, Boston drivers using hands-free technology aren’t much safer than drivers talking or texting on a handheld device. Researchers at the University of Utah have studied driver behavior for the past two years by asking subjects to driver on a closed course while wearing devices that monitor brain activity. The drivers faced increasing levels of distraction, and computers recorded the drivers’ brain waves as they drove.
The team found that the distraction was based on the complexity and length of the task, not whether hands were involved. In fact, hands-free technology like voice-to-text applications were found to be among the most distracting tasks. This finding is consistent with a 2008 Carnegie Mellon University study that found that any phone conversation distracted drivers, regardless of whether it was on a hands-free or handheld device. These results have led some experts to question whether hands-free technology reduces distraction or the risk of car accidents.
The issue of distracted driving has become a point of focus for the Department of Transportation and state governments. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has fought to increase public awareness about the dangers of distracted driving. Forty-one states have banned drivers from sending or receiving text messages. Eleven states and the District of Columbia have outlawed talking on handheld phones while driving.
Distracted driving can lead to real consequences. According to federal data, distracted driving contributed to 10 percent of the fatal accidents in 2011. Accidents involving a distracted driver led to 3,331 deaths and 387,000 injuries. Victims of a distracted driver may be able to pursue financial compensation for expenses caused by the accident. An experienced personal injury or car accident attorney could help distracted driving victims argue their case, negotiate any possible settlements and obtain full and fair compensation.
Source: The Washington Post, “Drivers still distracted, despite tech advances keeping their eyes on the road,” Ashley Halsey III, June 12, 2013