Study Says Hands Free Texting Offers No Safety Benefits for Drivers

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News Posted: Tue, Apr 23 2013 10:23 AM
The problem with trying to send and receive text messages while operating a vehicle is that your eyes are zeroed in on a mobile phone instead of the road where they belong. Voice-to-text apps that offer hands-free texting seem like an obvious solution, but new research suggests that such software offers no real safety advantage over manual texting.

That revelation came courtesy of a study conducted by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) that was sponsored by the Southwest Region University Transportation Center. The study, which is supposedly a first of its kind, examined the performance of 43 research participants driving a vehicle on a close course. Similar research exists in relation to manual versus voice-activated tasks using devices installed in a vehicle, but never before has there been a study that compares voice-to-text and manual texting in an actual driving environment.

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The study consisted of drivers first navigating the course without using a cell phone. They then ran through the course three additional times performing a series of texting exercises: once using Siri for the iPhone, again using Vlingo for Android, and a third time texting manually.

"Driver response times were significantly delayed no matter which texting method was used. In each case, drivers took about twice as long to react as they did when they weren’t texting," TTI said. "With slower reaction times, drivers are less able to take action in response to sudden roadway hazards, such as a swerving vehicle or a pedestrian in the street."

What's more, the study found that the time drivers spent looking at the roadway ahead was also significantly less when texting, regardless of whether it was hands-free or not.

"Understanding the distracted driving issue is an evolving process, and this study is but one step in that process," said Christine Yager, a TTI Associate Transportation Researcher who managed the study. "We believe it’s a useful step, and we’re eager to see what other studies may find."
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ajm531 replied on Tue, Apr 23 2013 11:58 AM

yeah i agree with this 100%. it might be slightly easier to do but not enough to make any less safer. Honestly i couldnt do it. I would either crash or send a bad text message. Really dont want either. Its really to hard to focus on the road, then think up a conversation and speak it and then make sure it was transcribed properly cause we all know that most voice to text like siri or even google now still mess up very much when it comes to voice to text. JUST DONT DO IT!!!!!

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Jaybk26 replied on Tue, Apr 23 2013 12:57 PM

The largest risk associated with texting while driving isn't the fact that they're not watching the road in front of them, it's that they're entirely concentrated on something other than driving. I recently read a book called "Brain Rules" which describes how our minds can only focus entirely on one thing at a time. Switching between two different activities can take as much as half a second, which, in a moving vehicle, can be the difference between life and death.

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Clixxer replied on Tue, Apr 23 2013 3:25 PM

Well it sounds like what I've thought for a long time. The best thing to do is not text. I know when I worked for AT&T you could not text, talk, anything while driving. They even "cautioned" against having the radio on to loud.

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Just ignore those distractions!

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As a frequent driver, I tend to agree with this, no matter how good voice recognition is, it isn't good enough. I nearly always have to make corrections before sending, the time spent making corrections sometimes takes more time then simply typing it correctly the first time. Thus I tend to stop, type, then go.

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