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Voice-Activated Car Infotainment Systems Still Distract Drivers

Two studies commissioned by the American Automobile Association (AAA) Foundation for Traffic Safety show that voice-activated car infotainment systems, which allow drivers to keep their hands on the wheel, may impair driving by taking the motorist’s mind off the road. The studies showed that, after using a voice-activated system to place a phone call, adjust the stereo, or get directions, a driver’s full attention may not return for 27 seconds. That is long enough to travel the length of three football fields at 25 miles per hour.   

Part of the problem is the poor performance of the systems. The less intuitive the system is, the more it requires a driver to concentrate on user interface rather than on driving. What’s worse, the systems often do not interpret voice commands properly. Having to think about what was wrong with the instruction and repeat a command can completely distract a driver from what’s happening on the road.

Systems from different automakers performed at different levels, but the best performing systems still seemed to distract drivers for as much as 15 seconds. The studies found that practice with a system did not help reduce distraction. A researcher who was one of the authors of the study was quoted as saying, “They’re just not good enough” to be used safely. AAA is planning additional studies to compare voice-activated systems with traditional hands-on consoles to see which contributes more to distracted driving.

Critics of cellphone use behind the wheel have long asserted that hands-free devices are not necessarily less dangerous than hand-held phones, because the conversation itself is the distraction. A one-handed driver with a mind fully engaged on the task of driving is much safer than an inattentive driver with hands at 10 and two.

Marcari, Russotto, Spencer & Balaban urges you to drive safely. If you are injured in a car accident, our attorneys in the Carolinas and Virginia are ready to assist you. For a free consultation, call (888) 351-1038 or contact our law firm online.

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