Study: AAA Says Voice-To-Text Features Most Distracting

A new study from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety suggests that voice-to-text functions are more distracting than any other forms of in-car cell phone use. The conclusion comes after AAA tested drivers’ distraction levels using a camera that tracks eye movements and an ECP skull cap that measures brain activity.

The AAA study found that hands-free systems that read or allow drivers to dictate emails, text messages, or Facebook updates were the biggest in-car distraction. When using those features, “reaction time slows, brain function is compromised, drivers scan the road less and miss visual cues,” the study said.

Researchers used a distraction scale to measure how much various tasks took drivers’ attention away from the roadway, based on measurements from the eye-tracking cameras and brainwave devices. Listening to the radio was rated a 1 on the distraction scale, the lowest level, while talking on a handheld or hands-free cell phone scored 2, the medium distraction level. But listing to text messages or dictating messages through a cell phone scored 3 in the study, the most distracting task.

“These findings reinforce previous research that hands-free is not risk-free,” AAA Foundation president Peter Kissinger said in a statement. “Motorists don’t see potential hazards right in front of them.”

As a result of the research, AAA released its own set of recommendations on limits for in-car technologies. The group says voice-recognition systems should only be used for controlling basic features like the climate control, cruise control, and cruise control; that all voice-to-text or text-to-voice systems, like those that can read text messages, be disabled when a car is in motion; and that automakers should do more to warn owners of the risks of distracted driving.

Earlier this year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced a set of guidelines designed to reduce distracted driving. Among other things, the rules would require that in-car systems limit the time a driver takes his or her eyes off the road to two seconds at a time, and a total of 12 seconds to accomplish a single task. NHTSA also recommended that automakers disable the following features unless the car is in Park: manually typing text messages or internet addresses; video phone calls like Skype; and displaying certain reading-intensive applications like text messages, social media updates, and web pages.

Research from Texas A&M University echoes the AAA Foundation’s findings. A study published earlier this year found that using voice-to-text smartphone apps doubled a driver’s reaction times and made them look away from the road for as much time as drivers typing messages by hand.

Source: AAA

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