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Study reveals the dangers of voice-activated devices

There’s no doubt that driving while talking on a hand-held cellphone is seriously distracting, and that this distraction can lead to a devastating car accident in Texas, involving injuries and even death. In an attempt to avoid these distractions, many motorists have started using hands-free cellphones and voice-activated devices while behind the wheel. A number of people argue, however, that using these devices can be distracting, especially when the technology does not understand what the driver is saying. A number of studies show that voice-activated technology can be significantly distracting, and can also increase the chances of auto accidents.

The study

An initial study published by AAA evaluated the levels of cognitive distraction that were caused by various distractions, such as talking on a hands-free cellphone, listening to the radio and operating a voice-activated device. The results showed that voice-activated devices that were installed in the vehicles caused the highest level of cognitive distraction. This came to a surprise to many people, as this technology was designed to lower the amount of distraction.

A second study was then carried out to look more specifically at in-vehicle devices and why they were causing distraction. During the study, participants were asked to perform several tasks, including the following:

  • Listen to a text or email read by the device.
  • Listen to a text or email and compose a response.
  • Issue basic commands using the device.
  • Use Siri to send text messages, modify calendar appointments and update social media statuses.

Each task was performed using both a natural, human voice, as well as computerized voice. Participants were also asked to use voice-activated technology that was perfectly reliable and moderately reliable.

Measuring cognitive distraction

Researchers used simulators and vehicles equipped with monitors to measure each participants heart rate, reactions times, and mental workload. They found that flaws in voice-activated systems caused greater amounts of driver distraction. Furthermore, listening to messages is less distracting that composing responses to messages. Interestingly enough, there was no measured difference between human or computerized voices in the level of distraction they cause.

Researchers suggest that voice-activated devices would be safer for drivers to use if manufacturers worked on fixing flaws in the technology and making the system more accurate.

Dealing with the collision aftermath

If you have been involved in a serious accident involving a distracted driver or any other type of motorist negligence, you may have questions concerning your case. Before you make an arrangement with the insurance company, you may want to speak to an attorney regarding your legal options.


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