Hands-Free Technologies Pose Risk of Lengthy Driver Distraction

Your chances of running a stop sign, failing to notice a pedestrian in the

AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety
AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety

crosswalk or another vehicle cutting in front of you are increased after you’ve made use of hands-free technologies in your car, according to research conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

The AAA Foundation suggests you could end up in a state of cognitive distraction after using technology in your vehicle that renders you unaware of your immediate driving surroundings, and it could last for a much longer timeframe that you might guess.

How much longer? Potentially unsafe mental distractions can persist for as long as 27 seconds after dialing, changing music or sending a text using voice commands, according to AAA research.

“For a car traveling 40 miles per hour, that translates to almost six football fields or almost five city blocks,” says Deborah A.P. Hersman, president and CEO of the National Safety Council, in a blog published on Huffington Post.

“That means if you’re stopped at a light and you’re checking email or sending a text with voice controls, even after you’ve finished the task and the light turns green, that task is still travelling with you,” Hersman says. “Your head is still in the phone (or car system) and not focused on driving.”

Hersman’s blog post was published shortly after the AAA Foundation released results of the third phase of its comprehensive investigation into cognitive distraction while driving.

“Technology continues to evolve at a breakneck speed; unfortunately safety has

Deborah Hersman
Deborah Hersman

not kept pace. In a perfect world, hands-free car systems and smartphones are easy to use, cognitively less demanding and keep driver distraction to a bare minimum,” Hersman says.

“One day we may get there, but at present, infotainment systems and smartphones are still too distracting – with distractions persisting longer than any of us realized. For now, the best advice for drivers remains the same: refrain from engaging in any task that takes your focus away from what’s important – arriving at your destination safely.”