Technology is increasingly becoming more convenient and easy to use. Most new technologies make our lives easier when used appropriately, such as voice-activated technology. It has become common sense that using a cell phone to talk or text while driving is extremely dangerous in dramatically increases your chance of getting into an accident. However, if you thought using hands-free devices while driving is a safe alternative to traditional cell phones, a new study shows that this is a big mistake. There are a number of highways in Connecticut, especially in areas like Stamford, Waterbury, New Haven, Norwalk, Fairfield County, and Danbury, where the worries of modern technology causing accidents are increasingly becoming real threats.
In Connecticut, it is illegal to use a handheld cell phone while driving, but using a hands-free device is allowed for drivers ages 18 and older. Voice-activated technology is supposed to make using a phone while driving safe. Unlike handheld devices, voice activated devices let you talk, text, send emails, and use social media like Facebook, without taking your hands off the wheel or your eyes off the road. However, hands-free devices still cause the driver to be distracted, and drivers who use the technology pose a major road hazard.
While some of the visual and physical distraction of a cell phone is taken away, hands-free devices still take the driver’s mind off of the road and cause a mental, or cognitive, distraction. The driver has their hands on wheel and eyes on road but becomes unaware of their surroundings. A study done by AAA reveals that drivers who use hands-free devices get tunnel vision. In other words, their eyes are fixed on the road in front of them, but they are not paying attention to their mirrors or other cues on the road, such as pedestrians, other vehicles stopping or turning, and traffic lights and signals. It also dramatically impaired their reaction time.
Volunteers of the study were in a driving simulator and studied as they drove with various potential distractions and then no distractions at all. Listening to the radio or to an audio book while driving caused a very small distraction. However, using voice-activated technology was very distracting. Talking on a handheld phone and talking on a hands-free phone were caused about the same level of distraction. Using features like speech-to-text was the most dangerous distraction and took away a lot of the driver’s attention from the road. The driver’s inattention caused them to miss a lot of things that were right in front of them, like going through a red light and then not even remembering seeing the light. The shocking results proved that hands-free devices are not risk-free.
Multi-tasking while at work or at home is not the same multi-tasking while driving a car. The brain can switch from task to task, but it cannot do multiple tasks at a time. New technology is a wonderful thing, but there is a time and place for using new devices and it is not behind the wheel of a vehicle. The best advice is not to use and cell phone devices while driving and AAA recommends using only the voice-activated functions that are related to driving, such as the windshield wipers and cruise control.
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