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Voice-activated devices more dangerous than cellphones

Many drivers think that using hands-free devices is much safer than the alternative. Unfortunately, a new study by the AAA found that hands-free technology is no safer than using handheld cellphones behind in the wheel.

In fact, using voice-activated technology to text, tweet or email someone while driving may actually be more distracting than texting or emailing the old-fashioned way. Voice-to-text devices on cellphones create a bigger distraction for drivers than handheld use of cellphones, according to the study.

Hands-free technology, including voice-activated devices, were created to decrease distracted driving and the risk of being in a car accident. However, the study reported that these devices are much more dangerous for drivers because they require the driver to focus their brain on two different cognitive tasks at the same time, increasing the risk of getting in a car crash.

The study found that drivers who talk to someone, either a passneger in the car or on the phone with either a handheld or hands-free device, had roughly a 2.5 level of distraction based on a five-point scale.

When drivers used voice-to-text devices, the drivers distraction level increased to 3.1. The study said with a 3.1 distraction level, a driver's reaction time increases from 15 percent while using a handheld cellphone to 25 percent when using voice-to-text or speech-to-talk devices.

The study shows just how dangerous new technology can be behind the wheel. Despite the best efforts of cellphone and other technology companies, using hands-free devices, especially voice-controlled devices, actually increase the risks for drivers.

Due to the increased risks of being in a car accident while using these devices, the researchers said that drivers need to be aware of the danger of using hands-free devices and not assume that it is automatically safer just because they are not using their hands. They said that anytime a driver is using their brain to do two things at once behind the wheel create a very dangerous situation.

Source: My Fox 8, "AAA: Voice-to-text devices worse driver distraction than cell phones," June 12, 2013

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