Hands-free devices no remedy for distracted driving

Study finds hands-free devices are just as distracting as cellphones

In recent years, distracted driving has gained a lot of media attention, especially as cellphone use has become so ubiquitous. In response to these concerns, many car manufacturers have introduced in-car hands-free voice prompt systems that allow drivers to set GPS coordinates or make a phone call without taking their hands off the wheel or their eyes off the road. A new study, however, has found that many of these hands-free systems may be just as distracting as cellphones, according to CBS News.

Hands-free distractions

The study was performed by AAA and the University of Utah. Researchers analyzed participants' driving performance in a simulator while they attempted to make voice commands with a number of popular in-car hands-free systems, such as Apple's Siri and GM's MyLink.

The results of the study were not encouraging. The hands-free systems, researchers found, were so distracting that participants often made a number of serious driving mistakes. In one case, a driver rear ended a car while trying to give a voice message to Facebook. Overall, the study found that Apple's Siri and GM's MyLink were the most distracting systems, while Toyota Entune system was the least distracting.

Multitasking myth

The problem with the hands-free systems, according to one Alabama state trooper, is that people are under the false impression that they can multitask while driving. He told WAAY TV that in many cases the systems are so error prone that drivers become frustrated by having to constantly repeat voice commands, thus taking their attention away from the road.

The study's researchers would agree with the state trooper's assessment. They determined that because many of the systems had so much difficulty understanding what drivers were saying, that any safety benefit they may have offered was cancelled out by how frustrating the systems were to use. The next step for researchers will be to determine whether the distractions caused by the hands-free devices has led to an actual increase in traffic accidents on the road.

Distracted driving

With researchers regularly pointing to the dangers of distracted driving, there is no longer any excuse for drivers to engage in this deadly practice. Activities like texting and driving and talking on a cellphone have been shown to be more dangerous than drunk driving, yet far too many drivers continue to put other motorists at risk by continuing to use their phones behind the wheel.

Anybody who has been injured because of a distracted driver should contact a personal injury attorney right away. An experienced attorney will help clients understand what their rights are following a distracted driving accident and whether a claim can be made against the allegedly negligent driver.