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Is Modern Technology in Cars Promoting Distracted Driving?

Why Distracted Driving May Not Entirely Be the Driver’s Fault

A concern about the modern technology available in cars is coming to light after a new study from AAA has been released. This study examined the level of distraction that drivers experience when using hands-free or voice command features in their vehicles, especially when the system does not work properly. According to Wyatt Andrews, CBS News correspondent, the frustration that drivers feel when the voice-activated systems in their cars do not understand them is actually the least of their worries.

In an article posted on, the AAA study questioned whether the latest voice-only, hands-free devices in cars are actually keeping drivers safe or causing them to become even more distracted. The answer, unequivocally, is ‘yes.’ One test subject of the study, using a driving simulator, was so distracted by using voice-messaging to update her social media she rear-ended the vehicle in front of her during the simulation. But, researchers believe the problem is not the drivers, but the systems.

Research from this study concluded that the drivers themselves are not the problem with distracted driving, but instead, errors made by the voice-only command systems are really causing the issue. Another subject of the study asked Siri, Apple’s voice command system, to call a restaurant called “Café Triol.” When the system responded that I couldn’t understand the command, the subject missed a visual prompt that was measuring her awareness and attention of the road.

David Strayer, the author of the study and associate at the University of Utah, explains that it is just as distracting to talk to your car about a phone call as it is to make one. “In the situations where you have a system that’s very difficult to use, is extremely frustrating to use, then, yes, you’ll be paying attention to that and not paying attention to traffic lights and pedestrians and other cars,” Strayer explained.

AAA’s study also ranked which vehicle’s voice command systems were most unreliable and making the most mistakes. The list ranked the systems from 1 being the least distracting and 5 being the most distracting – this list included a Chevrolet vehicle with GM’s “MyLink” system rating 3.7 and Toyota’s “Entune” system rating 1.7. In a statement, GM acknowledged the performance of the MyLink system, saying “our in-vehicle systems and verbal interfaces on behalf of our customers.”

While this study does conclude that hands-free and voice-only systems lead to an increase in distracted driving, there has not be any correlation made to these systems and an increase in vehicle accidents – simply, the science is not there yet. The simple truth that this study did uncover, however, is the more we are talking in the car while driving, the more likely we are to get distracted behind the wheel.

*Photo Courtesy of Brian Bilek via Creative Commons License