Hands free doesn’t mean attention free.
It’s becoming common knowledge that cell phone handsets cause drivers to become distracted, and an increasing number of states are prohibiting their use for talking, texting, and other activities while behind the wheel, but are the voice-controlled gadgets that have been replacing them any safer, or are they simply creating a new high-tech way to take focus away from the road?
Some experts are now saying that it is equally dangerous to talk to a dashboard as it is to speak to a cell phone held in your hand. Researchers have been saying that there is promise to voice-controlled devices, but they haven’t yet reached the point that they don’t lead to distraction on the road. That said, when using those devices instead of mobile phone handsets, both fender benders and fatal crashes are decreased. Not as much as without using any device at all, but it’s certainly an improvement.
Automakers have been rapidly adopting the use of voice controls that are built right into the vehicle for using mobile phones, GPS navigation devices, and other common dashboard tasks with the goal of keeping a driver’s eyes on the road.
Deborah Hersman, the chairperson of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), spoke at a public forum and said that there is a “gap in research” regarding the voice-controlled features that are being installed into vehicles and other devices that are used while driving.
In December, the NTSB made a recommendation that states ban the use of all forms of mobile device in vehicles that are in operation, with the exception of GPS navigation and emergencies. The Transportation Department has also stated that approximately 3,000 out of the total of 33,000 deaths that occurred in car accidents last year were the result of distracted driving.
In February 2012, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration suggested their own in-car technology safety guidelines. However, it has stated that it won’t be adding recommendations for voice-controlled devices until 2014 at the earliest. The guidelines they offered were based on the suggestions that had been made by the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers about ten years ago.