Hands-free texting reduces driver distraction, according to some experts, but it still poses a significant risk to California motorists and pedestrians. About nine million vehicles across the United States are now equipped with speech-operated systems, or infotainment systems, and this number is expected to jump to 62 million cars and trucks over the next five years. A study performed for the AAA by University of Utah researchers highlights the risk of car accidents posed by motorists thinking such technology is safe to use on the road.
The study tracked key driving variables among 32 college students experiencing different types of distractions, including infotainment systems. Among other findings was the recognition that talking to a computer is significantly more distracting than speaking with a person either in the vehicle or via hand-held device. Several reasons were given for this. Computer voices are more difficult to comprehend, which takes attention away from driving. It requires more concentration to speak to a computer. There is also a lack of feedback when engaging in complex speech-operated functions, such as composing text messages.
AAA has officially requested regulators and auto manufacturers to place limitations on speech-operated systems, so that they are used only for “core driving tasks.” Others point to evidence suggesting that hands-free devices are relatively safer than hand-held devices.
The best outcome of such studies would be that drivers choose to focus on operating their vehicle while behind the wheel to the exclusion of other activities. With increasing interest in infotainment systems and mobile devices, this is unlikely. It practically means that more Americans will suffer in car accidents each year caused by a distracted driver. The victims may be able to seek compensation in California civil courts for the damaged caused by these drivers.
Source: Yahoo News “Hands-free texting still distracting for drivers,” Joan Lowy, June 12, 2013