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Voice-Activated Software and Hands-Free Devices Still Make Substantial Demands on Drivers’ Attention

Handsfree Technology

In recent years, laws barring drivers from using a phone without a hands-free device have caused drivers to reevaluate how they interact with their phones while they’re behind the wheel of a car. Research into whether the use of hands-free systems actually improve roadway safety shows that drivers are still distracted by systems that claim to allow drivers to focus on the road, and that those distractions are even longer-lasting than previously thought.

A team of researchers at the University of Utah, with support from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, studied ten different in-vehicle entertainment systems, as well as three different smartphones’ voice-controlled software systems. Researchers looked at the amount of driver attention each system demanded, scoring their level of distraction on a scale from 1 to 5, with 1.2 being akin to listening to the radio while driving, and 5 being like trying to drive while solving math problems and memorizing a list of words. The researchers found the 2015 Mazda 6 to have the most attention-hogging system, scoring a 4.6, while the Chevy Equinox made the least demand on driver attention at 2.4.

Overall, the researchers determined that drivers were mentally distracted for an average of 27 seconds after using a voice-activated device—long enough to cover three football fields’ worth of road when driving at 25 mph… or cause a serious collision. David Strayer, one of the researchers from the University of Utah, explained how, even though users aren’t actually looking at a device, their mental attention remains on the interaction they had with the technology, and not on scanning for hazards that could appear in the road before them. “It’s kind of comparable to trying to balance your checkbook as you’re driving down the road,” he said. “No one would do that.”

If you or a loved one have been hurt in a crash with a distracted driver in Virginia, give yourself the best chance of recovering the money you need for your injuries and contact the seasoned Charlottesville personal injury attorneys at Buck, Toscano & Tereskerz for a consultation on your claims, at 434-977-7977.

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