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Voice-activated technology distracting and dangerous for drivers

According to statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, roughly 3,330 people were killed in motor vehicle accidents caused by distracted drivers during 2011 alone. Another 387,000 men, women and children were injured in car accidents caused by distracted driving. Talking or texting on a cellphone is one of the most prevalent and distracting activities in which a driver can engage. In an effort to prevent distracted driving accidents, states like Connecticut have enacted laws making texting while driving and talking on a handheld mobile device while driving illegal.

In response to growing pressure from safety advocates and lawmakers, many automobile manufacturers and cellphone providers have made efforts to help curb distracted driving. Many of these efforts focus on providing drivers with voice-activated technology. A new study conducted by the American Automobile Association, however, proves that voice-activated technology may have the opposite intended impact.

The study examined 32 young drivers and measured the brainwaves, eye movement and response times of those participants. For the study, drivers were asked to drive a car while engaging in a variety of potentially distracting activities such as talking on a cellphone, listening to the radio and engaging with voice-activated technologies.

Surprisingly, results of the study showed that participants were most distracted while using voice-activated technologies. Researchers have determined that the major components of distracted driving include when a driver is mentally disengaged from the task at hand, takes his or her eyes off of the road or fails to maintain control of the wheel of a vehicle.

Currently, AAA estimates there are approximately 9 million cars and trucks on America's roads that are equipped with voice-activated technology. The results of this study are important as the number of vehicles containing this potentially dangerous technology is expected to grow to 62 million by the year 2018.

Source: The Day, "AAA study: When driving, hands-free does not equal risk-free," Izaskun E. Larraneta, June 13, 2013

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