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Study: hands-free devices dangerous for drivers

Using hands-free cellphones and voice-activated devices while driving is more dangerous than previously believed, according to a new study by the AAA. The study found that these devices are actually more distracting for drivers than using handheld cellphones.

Voice-activated devices were invented to help drivers continue using their cellphones to send text messages and emails. However, the new study highlights just how dangerous these devices are and how they actually increase the risk of being in a car accident.

The study found that using a hands-free cellphone is not any safer for drivers. In fact, hands-free devices that have speech-to-text technology is the most distracting system for drivers. They found that drivers have to concentrate and focus on speech-to-text devices more than when they talk on a cellphone or to a passenger in the car.

The more a driver has to concentrate on a task, the greater the risk for becoming distracted behind the wheel. The study reported that when drivers have to use more concentration to complete a task, they are more likely to develop "tunnel vision" where they will stop scanning the road and are unable to see hazards on the road like stop lights and pedestrians.

Voice-activated technology is the most distracting to drivers because they end up focusing on the technology instead of on the road, and actually become blind to certain driving hazards and may be unable to perform common driving behaviors like stopping in time at a red light.

The researchers hope that the study will help raise awareness about the dangers of using hands-free devices. They said drivers need to be aware of the risks of becoming distracted behind the wheel when using voice-activated technology and make an effort to not use these devices when driving.

Source: The State Journal-Register, "Study: Hands-free texting still distracting for drivers," Joan Lowy, June 12, 2013

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