Stupid is as stupid does: handsfree texting still dangerous

Apr 23, 2013
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Automotive manufacturers have been pushing to get improved hands-free technology into automobiles all around the world. Handsfree technology allows drivers to do things such as make phone calls without actually having to touch their mobile phone. Some vehicles will even read text messages out loud to the driver and will allow the driver to send text messages using their voice.

Some lawmakers and automotive manufacturers believe this hands-free technology is safer. However, a new study published by the Texas Transportation Institute now claims that some hands-free technology is just as dangerous as manual options while driving. Specifically, the study claims that it's just as unsafe to send text messages using a voice to text service as it is to type the text manually while driving.

The study looked at drivers aged 16 to 60 that were tested on a closed course. There were 43 licensed drivers and they all used the same vehicle, a 2009 Ford Explorer. During the test for the study, each of the drivers drove four times for about 10 minutes at 30mph with one session performed while not texting at all, one performed while texting manually, one while texting using voice to text app on the iPhone, and another while texting using an Android smartphone and a voice to text app.

The study found that driver response times were slower no matter what text method was used than when not texting at all. The study claims the drivers took approximately twice as long to react to a change in the situation ahead when they were texting using either method than when they were driving and not texting all. Researchers involved with study also found that while performance is roughly the same with both text methods, manual texting actually required less time than using voice to text.

"That is not surprising at all," says John Ulczycki, vice president of the National Safety Council. "We have believed that for some time, that voice-activated texting is not any safer. There are two reasons for that. First, the technology is not yet perfected. Messages often come out garbled, which can take even more time. And second, it's really the same kind of mental concentration that's involved here. They're still taking their mental concentration off the road."

[via USA Today]


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