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Studies: better technology doesn't solve problem of distracted driving

Research is beginning to indicate that purely mental distractions may still be too much for drivers to handle.
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    December 17, 2013 /24-7PressRelease/ -- In-car entertainment and information technology has advanced greatly in the last few years, and many drivers in Los Angeles make regular use of these features. However, although this technology is supposed to prevent distracted driving accidents, critics have long worried that it merely presents a different type of distraction.

Most people would agree that a mental distraction is better than a distraction that is visual, physical and mental. However, research is beginning to indicate that purely mental distractions may still be too much for drivers to handle.

Research: distraction outweighs benefits

According to the Huffington Post, the American Automobile Association and the University of Utah recently studied the attentiveness of drivers using voice-activated technology. Researchers compared activities including:
- Talking on the phone.
- Listening to audio books.
- Using text-to-talk technology to listen to text messages.
- Using talk-to-text technology to respond to text messages.

The study found that the voice-activated technologies presented the largest distraction, impairing drivers even more than talking on the phone did.

The Huffington Post reports that this study was not the first to reach such a conclusion. Although many states, including California, ban texting and handheld cell phone use while allowing hands-free devices, research has suggested that hands-free and voice-recognition devices are only marginally safer, if that. Other studies, though, have found that these devices have no negative effects on driving ability.

The issue is of growing concern, as distracted driving is one of the more common preventable causes of car accidents. The proliferation of advanced in-car technology also makes a better understanding of this topic critical.

Integrated technology on the rise

Anyone who has shopped for a car recently or paid attention to commercials is aware that many new vehicles offer features that allow Internet browsing, email checking and more. To put the tendency into perspective, the Huffington Post cites an industry research group's estimate that $32 billion will be generated this year by vehicle infotainment features.

It is becoming clear that researchers and even the government aren't sure what will keep drivers safest. A woman who recently received a ticket for wearing Google Glass while driving highlights this issue. Although the woman was not actively using the device at the time, the citation brings up a few thought-provoking points.

Google Glass wearers can view information on a tiny screen located above the right eye, according to Fox News. Some Glass users believe that this presents less of a distraction than a number of inevitable in-car distractions, like looking at a passenger or glancing down to adjust dashboard controls. Other people believe that the technology -- which lets users read email, video chat and view maps, among other things -- is dangerously distracting. Fox News reports that three states already have bills that would make driving while using Glass illegal.

It's clear that more research is needed, and legal changes regarding advanced technology may be needed in the future. In the meantime, it is important for drivers to remember that hands-free technology still constitutes a distraction. Drivers should try to use this technology sparingly and cautiously.

Of course, there will always be drivers who disregard the law and even the safety of others. In the event that you are hurt in an accident with a distracted driver, you should contact an attorney to discuss seeking compensation.

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