Home Consumer Study: Hands-Free Technologies Are Still A Distraction For Drivers

Study: Hands-Free Technologies Are Still A Distraction For Drivers

By Al Sunshine, SouthFloridaReporter.com, Consumer Investigator, Oct. 23, 2015 – I know from my experience futzing around with Siri or other voice systems, that they  look and sound cool.

But the damn things rarely work right and can be more of a pain than their worth. Especially while driving.

Triple -A agrees and is naming names.

It found “mental distraction” can last for a few minutes after using these increasingly popular devices, and it believes they can become potentially serious safety hazards.

Per AAA: 
The researchers discovered the residual effects of mental distraction while comparing new hands-free technologies in ten 2015 vehicles and three types of smart phones. The analysis found that all systems studied increased mental distraction to potentially unsafe levels. The systems that performed best generally had fewer errors, required less time on task and were relatively easy to use.

The researchers rated mental distraction on a five-point scale. Category one represents a mild level of distraction and category five represents the maximum. AAA considers a mental distraction rating of two and higher to be potentially dangerous while driving.

The best performing system was the Chevy Equinox with a cognitive distraction rating of 2.4, while the worst performing system was the Mazda 6 with a cognitive distraction rating of 4.6. Among phone systems, Google Now performed best with a distraction rating of 3.0, while Apple Siri and Microsoft Cortana earned ratings of 3.4 and 3.8. Using the phones to send texts significantly increased the level of mental distraction. While sending voice-activated texts, Google Now rated as a category 3.3 distraction, while Apple Siri and Microsoft Cortana rated as category 3.7 and category 4.1 distractions.

“The massive increase in voice-activated technologies in cars and phones represents a growing safety problem for drivers,” continued Doney. “We are concerned that these new systems may invite driver distraction, even as overwhelming scientific evidence concludes that hands-free is not risk free.”

There are no federal standards regulating how these systems work. Most states ban “distracted driving” but don’t define it what it means.

Auto safety experts have long warned, if you have to make an important call or text, safely pull over to the side of the road until you can concentrate 100% on getting back to driving.

As for me, my hands free system works sometime. And I have turned the damn thing off more than once when it doesn’t work right and I don’t want to mess around with it in traffic.

Watch the AAA “Hands Free” Tests

Al Sunshine is a South Florida-based Broadcast and Digital Journalist whose career has spanned more than 40 years at the local and national levels. His award-winning investigations have triggered more than a dozen state and local consumer protection laws and his work’s been cited in Congressional Testimony before the U-S House of Representatives. He is best known for his “Shame On You” features for CBS Miami which sought to expose businesses, agencies and individuals defrauding or deceiving consumers, as well as endangering the safety and welfare of the general public. In 2013 Al retired from CBS Miami to set up his own Digital News Business, “Sunshine News, LLC” and Al continues to blog for the Radio, Television, Digital News Association, sponsors of the prestigious Edward R. Murrow Awards”. An avid environmentalist, Al is one of the founding members of the “Miami Pine Rocklands Coalition”. The Florida Non-Profit is fighting to save and restore the last 2% of Pine Rocklands found only in South Florida and nowhere else in the continental United States. Al was recently elected its President.