New AAA study touts the risks of hands-free devices for drivers

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 The progression of hands-free technologies from allowing talking on the phone to texting and using social media is not a cure all for distracted driving’s downside of car accidents and injuries, according to a new American Automobile Association Foundation for Traffic Safety study shows.

The research was done in conjunction with the University of Utah.

The study cites an expected five fold increase in new vehicle info-tainment systems by 2018, and urged pre-emptive consideration of ways to counteract the perception the technologies bear little or no risk compared to hand-operated cellular phones.

“There is a looming public safety crisis ahead as the number of these in-vehicle technologies increase,” said Lloyd P. Albert, AAA Southern New England Senior Vice President of Public and Government Affairs. “It’s time to consider limiting new and potentially dangerous mental distractions that are built into cars, especially since there’s a common public misperception that hands-free means risk-free.”

The study urges the auto and electronics industries to find new ways to limit the use of voice-activated technology to driving-related activities, such as climate and cruise control, windshield wipers, and increase safety by disabling voice to text technologies such as using social media or interacting with e-mail and text messages while a vehicle is moving.

 

“This study constitutes the most in-depth analysis to date of mental distractions behind the wheel.  AAA hopes it will serve as a stepping stone to collaborate with automakers to promote our shared goal of improving safety for all drivers,” said Mr. Albert. “Specifically, these increasingly common voice-driven, in-vehicle technologies should be limited to use for just core driving tasks unless the activity results in no significant driver distraction.”

Cognitive distraction expert Dr. David Strayer and his research team at the University of Utah measured brainwaves, eye movement and other metrics to assess what happens to drivers’ mental workload when they attempt to do multiple things at once. To study reaction times, Dr. Strayer:

  • Mounted cameras inside an instrumented car to track eye and head movement of drivers;
  • Used a Detection-Response-Task (DRT) device to record driver reaction time in response to triggers of red and green lights added to their field of vision; and
  • Charted participants’ brain activity using a special electroencephalographic (EEG)-configured skull cap so researchers could determine mental workload.

 

 

 

Based on the research, AAA urges the auto and electronics industries to find new ways to:

  • Limit the use of voice-activated technology to core driving-related activities, such as climate control, windshield wipers; and cruise control;
  • Ensure these applications don’t lead to an increased safety risk because of mental distraction while the car is moving;
  • Disable certain functionalities of voice-to-text technologies such as using social media or interacting with email and text messages so they’re inoperable while the vehicle is in motion; and
  • Educate vehicle owners and mobile device users about the responsible use and safety risks for in-vehicle technologies.

 

“This study constitutes the most in-depth analysis to date of mental distractions behind the wheel.  AAA hopes it will serve as a stepping stone to collaborate with automakers to promote our shared goal of improving safety for all drivers,” said Mr. Albert. “Specifically, these increasingly common voice-driven, in-vehicle technologies should be limited to use for just core driving tasks unless the activity results in no significant driver distraction.”

 

To view the full Cognitive Distraction in the Vehicle report or AAA’s Distracted Driving Fact Sheet, visit www.NewsRoom.AAA.com.

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