Hands-free isn’t distraction free

US study finds speech recognition surprisingly distracting to drivers

bluetooth buttons car

Drivers are being warned ‘voice control’ systems are a major distraction.

Being able to control car functions and access technology such as text messages by simply voicing commands sounds, in theory, like something that would not be very distracting at all.

But a study completed by the American Automobile Association Foundation for Traffic Safety has found voice command, or speech recognition technology is, in fact, quite a big distraction.

The AAA’s Gail Weinholzer, says the study showed mental distractions are dangerous even when drivers have their hands on the wheel and their eyes on the road.

“We used cameras mounted on the dashboard to track head and eye movement, we used a special EEG skull cap to chart brain wave activity and we used a device that measures reaction time to various stimuli,” Weinholzer says.

“All three were very conclusive that a distracted driver isn’t even aware that they’re distracted.”

And it appears many motorists aren’t aware of just how distracting speech recognition technology can be.

“The AAA did a survey just this past year and 71% of all drivers believed that hands-free is risk-free and 50% of all drivers believed infotainment systems are not distracting. Both of those statistics could not be further from the truth.”

The motor club is making an appeal to both the auto-making and technology industries.

“Think about limiting some of the things they have as far as functionalities that are not necessary to the driving of the vehicle,”

“We certainly want them to disable many of these functions while the vehicle is in motion, and finally, help us educate the driving public about the risks that are involved.” Weinholzer says.