Hands-free devices keep your hands on the wheel, but they take your mind off the road

News reports of the dangers posed by texting while driving, along with laws requiring the use of hands-free devices, have ingrained in us the dangers of using our phones while we’re behind the wheel. However, most of us believe that, if we’re using our car’s in-vehicle entertainment systems or the voice-activated software on our phones, we’re doing the right thing both in terms of compliance with the law and for safety. According to academic research, however, this may not be the case. Researchers have found that, not only do these hands-free devices fail to prevent all distraction, but drivers are even more distracted by in-vehicle technology than previously thought.

The University of Utah, alongside the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, crafted the study looking at ten different in-vehicle entertainment systems and three voice-activated smartphone software programs to determine how much of driver attention was required to use the systems. The researchers created a scale from 1 to 5 to score how distracting each system was, with a 1 being driving entirely without distraction, to a 5 being the equivalent of driving while memorizing a list of words, and also doing a set of math problems.

The researchers’ first major finding was that, across the spectrum of devices, a driver remained mentally distracted from the task of driving for an average length of 27 seconds after interacting with their hands-free technology in some way. The study found that, even where drivers continued to look at the road, their minds remained fixated on the technology they had recently used, such that they were prone to missing hazards in the roadway, or failing to scan the road ahead for dangers. The study also determined that, among all ten in-vehicle entertainment systems, the 2015 Mazda 6 had the most dangerously distracting interface, scoring a 4.6 out of 5 on the scale. The least-distracting system was that installed in the Chevy Equinox, which scored a 2.6 out of 5. The overall takeaway seems to be that, no matter how cautious drivers are at avoiding looking at their phones while driving, distractions take a toll on drivers’ attention.

If you or a loved one have been injured by a distracted driver in South Carolina, contact the experienced and compassionate Spartanburg personal injury attorneys at Anderson, Moore, Bailey & Nowell for a consultation on your claims, at 864-641-6431.