Hands-free texting while driving just as dangerous as using your fingers, study finds

Hands-free texting while driving just as dangerous as using your fingers, study findsOne of the perceived benefits of speech-to-text services and voice assistants like Apple's Siri is that they allow you to dictate text messages hands-free while driving.

But while you may be staying on the right side of the law by using speech-to-text in the car, a new study suggests you're actually no safer doing it that way than the old fashioned button-prodding method.

The study, conducted by the Texas Transportation Institute, compared the reaction times of 43 drivers on a test track, first without any gadgets present, then driving while texting normally and again driving using a speech-to-text service.

What emerged was that sending a text while driving seriously impacts a driver's reaction time no matter what the method used.

“In each case, drivers took about twice as long to react as they did when they weren't texting,” said Christine Yager, who headed the study. “Eye contact to the roadway also decreased, no matter which texting method was used.”

In fact, in some respects speech-to-text might actually be more dangerous than physical texting because on average the whole process takes longer, especially if you make a few errors while dictating your message. Either way, the point is your mind isn't where it needs to be – on the road, paying attention to what's going on around you.

“You're still using your mind to try to think of what you're trying to say, and that by proxy causes some driving impairment, and that decreases your response time,” Yager added.

That doesn't mean hands-free mobile technologies are a lost cause in terms of driver safety, as technologies are constantly being improved and made more intuitive.

But the danger is that because speech-to-text is an explicitly legal way to send text messages while driving (UK law warns only that "if the police think you’re distracted and not in control of your vehicle you could still get stopped and penalised"), people feel far more comfortable using it than they ever did in the old button-prodding days.

I'm about as far as you can get from a health and safety fanatic, but I can't help but think maybe a complete ban on phone use of any kind while driving is the only truly responsible way forward.

Via Reuters

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JanSt / MOD  Apr. 23, 2013 at 20:22

Couple of UK studies in late '90s found that listening to radio chat or having a conversation with a passenger is as dangerous as being on the phone...
It's not rocket science, and I wish people would start taking cars seriously! 12 million deaths world wide per year - a minor world war!


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