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Study: Drivers who use hands-free technology are still distracted

Distraction is defined as any activity that causes someone to take their hand off of the steering wheel, their eyes off of the road or their mind away from the task of driving.
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    December 18, 2013 /24-7PressRelease/ -- Every day thousands of vehicles travel the busy road systems of Minneapolis and St. Paul and it is not surprising to see many of these drivers engaged in behaviors other than driving. However, when drivers take their attention off of the road around them, they put themselves at risk of becoming involved in a car accident.

In fact, according to the Minnesota Office of Traffic Safety, driver inattention/distraction was named as a leading factor in all accidents that occurred in 2012. During that year, there were 109 people who died in the metro area of the Twin Cities and statewide, 1,268 severe injuries were reported.

Distraction a serious issue

As the cell phone became a household technology and texting developed into a popular method of communication, it also raised alarms as government and state agencies began to see an increase of accidents caused by drivers on their mobile devices. According to, the number of text messages sent every month in the United States and its territories were numbered at over 171 billion and 660,000 people use cell phones or other technology while behind the wheel of a vehicle.

Distraction is defined as any activity that causes someone to take their hand off of the steering wheel, their eyes off of the road or their mind away from the task of driving. These behaviors include:
- Using maps.
- Talking to others in the car.
- Using a cell phone.
- Texting.
- Eating/drinking.
- Grooming.

Texting is considered the most dangerous behavior because it engages a driver in all three types of distraction, putting him or her at high risk. As a result, car manufacturers and the technology industry have focused on creating hands-free technology that is accepted as less distracting to drivers.

Study conducted on cognitive distraction

A new study that was recently released reveals that in-vehicle technology designed to eliminate visual and manual distraction may not be any safer than using a hand-held device. The study, conducted by the American Automobile Association Foundation for Traffic Safety, was conducted to study cognitive distraction. In order to capture the data, researchers used cameras, sensors and other equipment as over 150 participants engaged in experiments using driving simulators, instrumented vehicles and a lab.

One of the purposes of the study was to create a measuring scale and look at how distracting different activities were to drivers cognitively. The researchers first asked participants to focus only on driving and then once they had captured data, the participants then were tested while doing something additional to the task of driving. These activities involved talking to a passenger, using a hand-held cell phone, listening to an audio book and using a voice-to-text technology.

Hands-free technology not safer

The results of the study indicate that technology designed to reduce distraction may not be safer than hand-held technology. Data collected from the experiments showed that the more complicated the task was, the more distracted drivers were. This included tasks involving the voice-to-text technology and showed that drivers missed visual cues, took longer to brake and conducted less visual scans of their driving environment.

When someone is injured because of a distracted driver, he or she can face monumental challenges. It is important to meet with an experienced attorney to discuss seeking appropriate compensation.

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