AAA: All Voice Control Systems Distract, Some More Than Others

By Seeking Justice | October 27, 2014 |

Voice control systems are considered by some to be among the latest technological advancements in the field of automotive safety. Voice control systems are supposed to allow a driver to perform a number of different tasks, all without having to take his or her eyes off the road.

Drivers can make calls, change radio stations, send text messages, post updates to social media and more. In an effort to minimize driver distraction, automobile manufacturers have worked hard to equip their newest vehicles with voice controls, electronic assistants and other hands-free technology.

However, recent AAA-commissioned experiments revealed that all voice control systems are capable of distracting drivers. Some companies’ voice control systems create a minimal distraction, while others can be so confusing that they may cause “in attentional blindness” in drivers attempting to use the system.

In attentional blindness, also referred to as perceptual blindness, is a condition that makes an individual unaware of an object well within the perceptual field because the person’s attention is on something else.

A driver who is attempting to drive and compose a text message via voice command may be distracted to the point where he or she is incapable of “seeing” that the vehicle up ahead has come to a stop, even though it is in plain view. This type of distraction could very easily result in an accident causing serious injury or death.

What Type of Mental Distractions Can Such Technology Cause?

According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, hands-free voice command systems cause different levels of mental distraction. The following list shows how each task, performed using the voice commands or hands-free systems, ranked (from most distracting to least):

  • Navigating complex menus.
  • Composing and listening to messages.
  • Navigating simple menus.
  • Listening to messages.
  • Adjusting the radio or temperature.

One of the most significant factors influencing the rate of distraction was found to be the accuracy or reliability of the system itself. Composing messages through the voice control system also posed a much higher risk of distraction than listening to a message.

Is There an Acceptable Level of Distraction When Driving?

Remaining completely distraction-free is an almost impossible task for a driver these days. There are innumerable distractions, both inside and outside the car, all capable of pulling the driver’s attention off the road.

While hands-free technology may have some benefits, there is no real acceptable level of distraction when driving. Drivers not only need to have their hands on the wheel while driving, but they also need to have their eyes on the road and their attention on the task at hand. Minimizing driver distraction is essential if distracted driving accidents are to be avoided.

Some of the simplest ways to avoid becoming distracted by voice control systems while driving include:

  • Turning off your phone while you are in transit.
  • Answering messages and texts before you leave, and then again only once you have arrived at your destination.
  • Testing out your hands-free or voice control system ahead of time.
  • Learning how each of the features you intend to use work, so you can perform each function with ease.

Of course, the best way to avoid having a distracted driving accident is to focus on safe driving and nothing else.

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