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AAA study: hands-free technology can be distracting for drivers

Hands-free technology was initially developed in an effort to ensure drivers keep their attention on the road and the task of driving. But does hands-free technology actually improve drivers’ attention level behind the wheel? Not necessarily, according to a new study.  

According to new research funded by AAA, hands-free technology can actually make the situation worse, particularly when voice command systems make mistakes interpreting the driver’s words. The study, for instance, looked at Apple’s Siri system, and the way drivers’ attention levels were impacted by mistakes in voice command interpretation. What was found was that drivers’ frustration at having been misinterpreted can cause lapses of attention.

Siri was not the only system looked at, though. The study tested at various built-in car voice systems and ranked them according to the incidence of mistakes and consequent driver distractions. GM’s MyLink system came out the worst, whereas Toyota’s Entune system came out on top.

A number of states have already recognized that hand-free technology isn't necessarily a lot safer than talking while holding a phone and have chosen to ban even hands-free technology for at least some categories of drivers. In West Virginia, according to Distraction.gov, novice drivers are banned from using such technology, though experienced drivers are free to use it.

The important thing to remember is that anybody, regardless of driving experience, can get distracted by cell phone use and that they can be held accountable for car accidents they cause as a result. Drivers who do not take steps to exercise reasonable caution when driving can and do face the consequences in personal injury litigation.

Source: CBS News, “Distracted driving may not be entirely your fault,” Oct. 7, 2014. 

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