Your hands-free device may not keep you as safe as you want when you're behind the wheel.
A study released this week from AAA and the University of Utah says using those hands-free features behind the wheel is more distracting and dangerous than talking on the phone while driving. In fact, the study says dictating speech to text is the most distracting of all.
“Just because the device is hands-free doesn’t mean it’s risk free,” says Aaron Kupec from AAA Connecticut.
Kupec says the study looked at drivers’ cognitive activity while doing certain tasks behind the wheel.
NBC’s Tom Costello put the driving simulator to the test on the Today show Wednesday morning. He found his reaction time was delayed by 10 percent when concentrating on talking to the car’s computer.
“The key message here is just because your eyes are on the road and your hands are on the wheel doesn’t mean you’re not distracted,” Kupec says. “You also have to keep your mind on the drive.”
Connecticut drivers we talked to agree. They say drivers should ditch the distractions.
“When it comes to driving you really need to pay attention to the road,” said Virginia Lanese from Thomaston.
“I typically do not answer calls when I’m in the vehicle driving, certainly not text,” says Miguel Prado from West Hartford.
Prado has two young children. His SUV can talk to the driver through its speakers, but he doesn’t find it helpful.
“For me it’s just a distraction trying to stay focused on the response or what the person is telling me.”
Automobile makers don’t want to jump to a conclusion. They’re not yet convinced their technological efforts to keep drivers safe on the raid have been in vain.
In a statement, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers says they’re concerned the study could mislead because it suggests that hand-held and hands-free devices are equally risky. They also noted that other studies are underway and road safety will be enhanced in the end through the complete body of research.
Still, Aaron Kupec with AAA says one thing is for certain.
“The key is to use [these features] responsibly.”