Study Questions ‘Hands-Free’ Driving Safety, Finds Voice Prompts Distract Drivers

CHICAGO (CBS) — Conventional wisdom tells us that “hands-free” is the way to go while driving a car.

But a new study out today from AAA Motor Club says even the seemingly “safe” options aren’t so safe, as CBS 2’s Marissa Bailey reports.

Researchers at the University of Utah put 257 drivers to the test.

They wanted to see how long it takes the brain to refocus on the task of driving after a driver is distracted.

The results show a driver can be distracted, on average, 27 seconds after dialing a phone number, changing a radio station or sending a text message using voice commands.

“People in general have a ‘Do as a I say not as I do attitude’ and people think it’s OK to drive down the road especially when they’re using their hands free system,” said the AAA’s Beth Mosher.

Mosher said the first-of-its-kind study also puts focus on the in-vehicle, voice prompt systems.

They are marketed by car companies and manufacturers as the safe option, but the study shows that might not be the case.

“If you’re using them to compose a text or update your Facebook–send out a tweet–it’s just not a safe to do that while operating a car,” Mosher said.

The study found drivers missed seeing stop signs, pedestrians and other cars.

Mosher said AAA hopes drivers will change their hands-free habits.

“It’s not safe. It does make your mind drift elsewhere and not on the task at hand which is driving.”

AAA provided the study results to auto manufacturers in hopes that infotainment systems may be changed to be more safe.

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