Today, most drivers are well aware that texting or talking on the phone while driving is an accident waiting to happen. Distracted driving encompasses any activity that diverts your focus away from driving, but using your cell phone while driving creates enormous potential for deaths and injuries on the road. To avoid these dangers, many drivers turn to hands-free voice recognition software to prevent outright using their phones while driving. But is this technology less distracting?
While it’s clear that taking your eyes off the road or your hands off the wheel is incredibly dangerous while driving, using hands-free technology should eliminate these distractions. However, unfortunately, research has found that even with both hands on the wheel, hands-free technology’s mental distractions still undermine a driver’s attention.
Hands-free doesn’t mean risk-free
While many drivers think they are making the safe choice by using hands-free technology, the reality is this isn’t the case. In a 2015 study from the Automobile Association of America (AAA), new hands-free technologies can mentally distract drivers even when their eyes are on the road and their hands are on the wheel. After using voice commands, mental distractions can persist for as long as 27 seconds after the order is said.
Some voice recognition technologies were less distracting than others, but ultimately, they resulted in residual mental distractions while driving. At the 25 MPH speed limit in the study, participants drove the length of roughly three football fields in the 27 seconds after completing the distracting task. When your mind is readjusting to the task of driving, it can miss traffic signs, pedestrians or other cars in traffic even when you think you are paying attention.
The bottom line
While some voice recognition software is less distracting than others, the fact is all of them take your mental focus off of driving. While voice recognition software may not be as dangerous as texting while driving, you should try to limit its use when behind the wheel to ensure your safety.