New research shows another form of using a cell phone when driving is not only dangerous, it’s no safer than the hazardous behavior it’s meant to replace.
The average number of text messages sent in the U.S. per day is 6.1 billion.
On top of that, a AAA survey found 35% of drivers admitted reading a text or email while driving in the past month, and 26% said they typed one.
There’s no doubt texting is dangerous distracted driving behavior.
Cell phone providers created voice-to-text software to reduce the dangers of texting while driving.
But new research by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) shows using voice-to-text is not safer than manual texting while behind the wheel.
TTI had 43 people drive a test course four times: once without using a cell phone, two times using different voice-to-text applications (Siri and Vlingo) and once texting manually (video).
- Driver response times were two times slower while texting, both manually and using either voice-to-text app
- The percentage of eye gazes to the road ahead were significantly fewer no matter which texting method was used
- It actually took drivers more time to complete the same message using the voice-to-text apps than typing them manually, and
- The voice-to-text apps created a false sense of being safer among the drivers, despite the fact that the measured driving safety didn’t improve.
The major conclusion, according to the TTI study:
“These findings suggest that using voice-to-text applications to send and receive text messages while driving do not increase driver safety compared to manual texting.”
While this is the first research of its kind about voice-to-text apps, it parallels previous research which showed that drivers’ attention suffered as much using a hands-free cell phone as a hand-held one while driving.
So, it’s easy to come to this conclusion: It’s not safe to use your cell phone in any way while you’re driving. That includes hands-free texting and hands-free calling.
April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month. It’s a good a time as any to remind all employees, but especially those who drive as part of their jobs, that using a cell phone while operating a motor vehicle increases the chances for crashes, injuries and deaths. If your company doesn’t already have one, it might also be a good time to consider a policy banning employees who drive as part of their jobs from using their cell phone when behind the wheel. Such a policy will not only keep your employees safer, it can also reduce your company’s liability.
Voluntary guidelines for automakers
Meantime, the federal government has released voluntary guidelines for automakers to disable certain phone, entertainment and navigation functions while a vehicle is in motion.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommends limiting the time a driver must take his eyes off the road to perform any task to 2 seconds at a time and 12 seconds total.
The guidelines also recommend disabling these operations accept if the vehicle is stopped and in park:
- manual text message entry and internet browsing
- video-based entertainment and communications like video phoning or conferencing, and
- display of certain types of text, including text messages, web pages and social media content.
What do you think about TTI’s new research and/or the voluntary NHTSA guidelines for automakers? What is your company’s policy about using cell phones while driving? Let us know in the comments below.