Dangerous Levels of Distraction Found With Voice-Control Devices

Drivers who multitask in their cars used to take solace knowing that voice-control devices – such as Bluetooth phones and navigational systems – allow them to talk on the phone, follow driving directions, and control car functions without using their hands. And by not using their hands, drivers reasonably assumed that they would be less distracted and less likely to cause personal injuries from a car accident.

But alarming new data from a University of Utah research group show that voice-control devices create dangerous levels of distraction. The American Automobile Association reports on two studies from 2013 and 2014 that measured cognitive functions for secondary tasks while driving a car. The studies ranked distraction on a scale of 1 (least impaired) to 5 (most impaired). Here is where some of the tasks fell:

1.0 No tasks other than driving

1.2 Listening to the radio

2.3 Talking on a hands-free mobile phone

2.5 Talking on a handheld mobile phone

2.8 Interacting with a fully reliable menu-based navigational system

3.1 Listening to/composing replies to emails and texts

3.6 Interacting with a moderately reliable menu-based navigational system

4.1 Using Siri to listen to/send messages, update Facebook and Twitter, modify calendar appointments

Perhaps the most alarming findings show that performing more complex tasks by voice – like composing messages or interacting with unreliable voice-recognition systems (such as Siri) – makes drivers far more distracted than talking on a handheld mobile phone. In three instances drivers performing these functions crashed their driving simulators.

For years our RI personal injury attorneys have educated about the risks that distracted driving can cause car accidents. With this new data we encourage drivers to remember that performing voice-control tasks while driving can put you, and others on the road, at risk more than you ever may have realized.