Study: Hands-free technology still dangerous for drivers

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It’s no secret that using a cell phone while you’re driving is dangerous. But a new study found that hands-free technology has introduced new hidden dangers to drivers on the road.

According to a new study released by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, distracted driving results in 3,000 deaths in the U.S. every year — and it’s not just caused by texting and emailing while behind the wheel. The group says the study’s results raise ‘new and unexpected concerns’ about the use of cell phones and vehicle information systems while driving.

Read more: The most and least reliable new cars

‘Hands-free’ does not mean ‘risk free’

The study found that ‘even when a driver’s eyes are on the road and hands are on the wheel, sources of cognitive distraction cause significant impairments to driving.’ So even though a driver is watching the road, if he or she is thinking about something else, that can still be very dangerous. The study says this type of distraction can lead to:

  • Suppressed brain activity in the areas needed for safe driving.
     
  • Increased reaction time (to peripheral detection test and lead vehicle braking).
     
  • Missed cues and decreased accuracy (to peripheral detection test).
     
  • Decreased visual scanning of the driving environment (tunnel vision, of sorts).
     
  • Driver interactions with in-vehicle speech-to-text systems (such as the infotainment offerings in many new vehicles) create the highest level of cognitive distraction among the tasks assessed.

Read more: 3 ways to monitor your teen behind the wheel

‘The results indicate that motorists could miss stop signs, pedestrians and other vehicles while the mind is readjusting to the task of driving,’ AAA Foundation Chief Executive Peter Kissinger said in a statement.

The study also found that even using voice-activiated technology — such as Siri or Microsoft’s Cortana — has hidden dangers in distracting drivers. When it comes to the least-distracting technology of its kind, the study found Google Now gets the best rating (as the least-distracting hands-free technology).

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