WDAY: The News Leader

Published June 12, 2013, 10:08 PM

Hands-free may be just as distracting while driving, according to AAA

Fargo, ND (WDAY TV) - It has long been touted as the safe alternative to texting and sending emails from behind the wheel.

By: Kevin Wallevand, WDAY

Fargo, ND (WDAY TV) - It has long been touted as the safe alternative to texting and sending emails from behind the wheel.

Hands free devices. Those dashboard systems that do everything you tell it to do. But a AAA report out today has automakers and drivers thinking twice. An in-depth and structured research project has revealed some troubling findings.

AAA calls it a public safety crisis looming. The most recent space age way to retrieve email, texts, update Facebook or call for Pizza. Those dashboard voice command systems that allow us to drive while keeping up with our life but as AAA found, at a cost.

Gene LaDoucer, AAA North Dakota: “And these technologies when you are conversing with them it creates a mental work load, that is found through this study to be more dangerous than talking on a hand held cell phone.”

Along with the University of Utah, AAA measured brainwaves, eye movements and driving performance of drivers. A skull cap recorded brain activity. The results: voice command systems require more concentration, consuming more of your attention. Cyle Cavett of Fargo has the capabilities on his newer model Jeep but he is not keen on using the technology.

Cyle Cavett, Fargo Driver: “There is a lady who comes on and you can do hands free calling and other gadgets but I don't pay attention. When you are driving you are driving. That is all I want to do.”

Researchers found translating speech into text is the most distracting of all and researchers found that hands free systems that allow drivers to send, scroll or delete email messages requires so much concentration, drivers get tunnel vision.

And this science, is leading us to approach the manufacturers to make this new technology safer.

There are now nine million cars on the road with these voice command systems. That will jump seven times in the next four years. AAA hopes when we get in the car to drive, we give a rest to social media and the voices from our dashboard.

AAA says it is not looking for new legislation, but conversations with automakers about making the technology convenient but safe.