Hands-Free May Not Reduce Driver Distraction


The Detroit Bureau

A study by AAA shows that hands-free sys­tems may not be the cure-all for dis­tracted dri­ving issues, even while the tech­nol­ogy becomes more prevalent.

Find out more about what AAA found and changes they suggest.

In the years ahead, dri­vers are going to be able to do so much while behind the wheel thanks to hands-free, voice-activated info­tain­ment sys­tems. Updat­ing Face­book pages, send­ing texts and answer­ing emails are just a few tasks that will be sim­ple and easy while dri­ving in the years to come.

How­ever, the tech­nol­ogy that automak­ers have for so long pitched as a way to avoid dis­tracted dri­ving issues may not be the panacea they believe, accord­ing a recent study by the Amer­i­can Auto­mo­bile Asso­ci­a­tion (AAA).

“There is a loom­ing pub­lic safety cri­sis ahead with the future pro­lif­er­a­tion of these in-vehicle tech­nolo­gies,” said AAA Pres­i­dent and CEO Robert L. Dar­bel­net.

“It’s time to con­sider lim­it­ing new and poten­tially dan­ger­ous men­tal dis­trac­tions built into cars, par­tic­u­larly with the com­mon pub­lic mis­per­cep­tion that hands-free means risk-free.”

The study, “Mea­sur­ing Cog­ni­tive Dis­trac­tion in the Auto­mo­bile,” rated var­i­ous actions by dri­vers on a scale of one to three, with three being the riski­est or most dan­ger­ous. For exam­ple, lis­ten­ing to the radio is con­sid­ered a Cat­e­gory One distraction.

AAA is plan­ning to use these find­ing to pro­mote poten­tial changes, such as:

  • Lim­it­ing use of voice-activated tech­nol­ogy to core driving-related activ­i­ties such as cli­mate con­trol, wind­shield wipers and cruise con­trol, and to ensure these appli­ca­tions do not lead to increased safety risk due to men­tal dis­trac­tion while the car is moving.
  • Dis­abling cer­tain func­tion­al­i­ties of voice-to-text tech­nolo­gies such as using social media or inter­act­ing with e-mail and text mes­sages so that they are inop­er­a­ble while the vehi­cle is in motion.
  • Edu­cat­ing vehi­cle own­ers and mobile device users about the respon­si­ble use and safety risks for in-vehicle technologies.