The world’s technology continues to advance every day. Phones are more high tech and complicated, computers become more powerful yet they keep getting smaller and every technological device has a camera built-in. It wasn’t long before our cars began to evolve too, to the point where we can control certain actions and functions with our voice. These include such things as changing the radio station, accessing the map function in our phones or in the car and even texting and calling people.
Is this the way of the future, being able to keep our eyes focused on the road, or is it a cause for concern by being a distraction.
A recent study by the University of Utah has examined this exact question. In conjunction with the AAA Foundation of Traffic Safety, the study determined that every time we turn our attention to the various voice controlled gadgets in our car, it can take up to 27 seconds for our minds to regain full attention on the road, where 100% of our attention should be at all times. The study revealed that using our voice controlled mobile phones to dial phone numbers, call contacts, change music, send texts and talk to Siri were rated as highly distracting, while using the voice controlled features of the vehicle were rated from moderately distracting to very highly distracting. This appears to be the opposite of what many people were probably thinking.
The study went further and found that vehicles travelling at only 40km/h, who are not at full attention for up to 27 seconds after they finish using the voice command, could cover almost 300 metres. That could be the distance of an entire school zone and this does not include the time it takes to perform the required function or request.
The research concluded that voice controlled systems are simply not yet ready and require further alteration and testing.
Now you may be thinking, surely keeping our eyes on the road and simply using our voice to control the various actions in our car is better than using our hands to do it? Whilst the research did not answer this specific question, the safest option would be to do neither.
Under Queensland law it is illegal to use a hand operated mobile phone, it must be hands free, but as this study pointed out, hands free does not alleviate or remove the distraction. As the operator of a motor vehicle, you owe a duty of care to every other road user, passenger and pedestrian. By not giving 100% of your attention to the road, you are driving negligently and could be liable for damage to other vehicles and property, as well as possible traffic offences such as driving without due care or even dangerous driving. As hands free mobile phones and voice controlled vehicles are not illegal in Queensland, we cannot advise you not to use them, as you are entitled; instead our advice is to be very weary when using them, as there could be very serious consequences.
Now we ask a question of you, can’t that text, phone call or Facebook update wait until you arrive at your destination?