Hands free texting more distracting than phone calls

A new University of Utah study says voice-to-text messaging is more distracting to drivers than talking on cell phones while driving. Photo: ap

WASHINGTON, June 12, 2013 — A new University of Utah study says voice-to-text messaging is more distracting to drivers than talking on cell phones while driving.

The two year study of more than 150 people between the ages of 18 and 36 and an average of seven years of driving experience found that verbal texting while driving cause a “large” amount of mental distraction. In comparison, phone conversations and talking to passengers in the car creates a “moderate/significant” distraction, and listening to music or an audio book creates a “small” distraction.

While the driver was using voice-to-text software, they showed multiple signs of being distracted.

Study participants wore brain sensors while driving and were asked to perform various tasks while driving. When drivers used voice-to-text software, they demonstrated multiple signs of distraction. Their response times were as slow as when they used a cell phone, and they glanced at the road less frequently than when they were not using the software. However, they were less distracted than when solving math problems while driving.

This is the second study showing that hands-free texting distracts drivers. In April, a Transportation Department study conducted by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute reached the same conclusion.

Several car manufacturers, including Ford and Toyota, have recently incorporated voice-to-text messaging systems in their new models. The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers said it cannot comment on the study until its experts have reviewed the findings. The group did say, however, it sees hands-free controls as positive because they keep drivers’ eyes and hands focused on the road.

About 9 million “infotainment” systems, which include hands-free texting, will be included in cars shipped worldwide, according to ABI Research. That number will rise to 62 million by 2018.

The AAA Foundation, the non-profit education and research branch of the AAA, founded the $250,000 project.

The National Transportation Safety Board is now calling to ban all phone conversations and texting while driving, even those with hand-held devices. The NTSB can make recommendations, but has no power to implement legislation.

Several states now prohibit texting while driving and many others forbid holding a handset to talk. Last month, Florida became the 41st state to pass a law against using hand-held devices to text while driving.


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Lisa M. Ruth

Lisa M. Ruth started her career at the CIA, where she won several distinguished awards for her service and analysis.  After leaving the government, she joined a private intelligence firm in South Florida as President, where she oversaw all research, analysis and reporting.

Lisa joined CDN as a journalist in 2009 and writes extensively on intelligence, world affairs, and breaking news. She also provides investigative reporting and news analysis. Lisa continues to write both for her own columns and as a guest writer on a wide variety of subjects, and is now Executive Editor for CDN and edits the Global, Family and Health sections.  She is also a regular contributor to Newsmax and other publications.

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