Latest Tech Is Causing More Distracted While Driving Crashes

Voice-Activated Systems Cause Dangerous Hazards

Calling your office, texting your kids, following a Google map, changing a song on the radio – all take our eyes off the road. Clearly these common distractions greatly increase the risks of a car crash. 

So what’s the solution? Voice-activated systems are supposed to prevent drivers from taking their hands off the wheel and their minds away from traffic. In theory, they should reduce distracting behavior and reduce auto accidents.

But a new study published by AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that a car’s voice system is actually a huge distraction that is causing more wrecks.

As a Texas personal injury lawyer, I am glad that attention is now being cast to the real dangers of distracted driving. Cell phone use is not the only problem facing drivers. 

How Does This Happen?

The voice-activation system requires you to think of the appropriate commands and then communicate with the system. Sounds easy, right? 

But, your interaction with your car is similar to balancing your checkbook while driving, according to University of Utah neuroscientists, David Strayer, the study’s lead scientist. The two acts scenarios actually produce the same brain activity.

Distraction occurs while you’re engaged in the task and continues for as long as 27 seconds after you’re done. That’s because you have to reorient yourself to such matters as speed, location and distance from other cars once you’ve hung up the phone. 

Auto Makers Market Voice-Activation as Newest Safety Feature

The seat belt, the shoulder strap and the airbag at one time were considered the newest safety innovations in the auto industry and came in vehicles for a price. These items are now standard fare, required by law. 

As smart phones became ubiquitous, using them while driving became the norm. People assumed that the dangers arose from the acts of holding the phone and looking at the screen. 

The premise behind the technology is reasonable —  eliminate these actions and talking or texting on the phone would be safe — but flawed.

One of the dangerous aspects of texting or talking on the phone while driving is the mental capacity involved in the act of communicating with the phone or car, not just the physical acts of removing your hands from the wheel or looking away from the road. 

How Safe Is This New Technology?

According to the New York Times, some people believe the auto industry is sending the wrong message that voice-activation is safe and that using a smart phone while driving should be acceptable. The profit potential makes the sales pitch more compelling for them.

But we can’t forget that 3,328 people were killed and 421 were injured in distracted driver-related auto accidents in 2012. That’s shocking.

We must stop thinking that hands-free means risk-free. There is no question that voice-activated technology has raised, not lowered, the chance of being in a motor vehicle collision. We see this over and over again, especially with younger drivers.

Since this technology is only going to increase and probably become standard in new vehicles, we must find to use it safely. Our roads are already far too dangerous.

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