Study: Hands-free infotainment systems still distract drivers

A new study found that hands-free infotainment systems are still distracting to drivers because they can become a source of frustration.

Many drivers in California and the rest of the country recognize the dangers of using a handheld device to talk, text or email as they drive. However, two new studies, conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety and the University of Utah, reveal that distracted driving accidents can still occur when drivers use the infotainment system in their vehicle.

Voice-activated systems aren't necessarily safer

In one of these studies, researchers tested the voice-activated systems included in some of the most common auto brands in three different settings. These included:

  • A driving simulator
  • A laboratory
  • A residential neighborhood

Once these tests were completed, each system was given a rating on a distraction scale of one to five, with five being the most distracting and one being the least distracting.

The systems that received the worst ratings in this particular study were the ones that made errors, even if the driver made clear and distinct commands. For example, in one situation, a driver requested to make a call to a certain person, but the system misinterpreted the request and called 911.

Overall, researchers concluded that voice-activated systems are distracting to drivers because they require them to devote a great deal of concentration to the electronic activity they are trying to complete.

The three types of distraction

Drivers may believe that they are staying safe behind the wheel when they use a voice-activated system because they are not physically holding their cellphone as they drive. However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, distracted driving refers to any activity that takes a driver's full attention away from operating a vehicle.

Additionally, there are three main types of distraction, which include visual, manual and cognitive. Hands-free systems are a form of cognitive distraction because they require drivers to focus on making the correct commands as they travel down the road.

California cellphone laws

To prevent drivers from engaging in negligent driving behavior, like texting and driving, all drivers in California are prohibited from using a handheld device while their vehicle is in motion. Additionally, there is a ban on texting and driving for drivers of all ages, states Distraction.gov. However, the use of voice-activated systems, like the ones tested in this recent study, is only prohibited for bus drivers and novice drivers.

Even with these laws in place, many drivers in California continue to endanger the lives of passengers, pedestrians and other drivers when they use their cellphone as they drive. If you were injured in an accident caused by a distracted driver, consult with an attorney to find out what your legal rights are.

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