AAA study uncovers new findings about distracted driving

AAA study uncovers new findings about distracted driving

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Texting while driving can be distracting, but so can using hands-free features. Texting while driving can be distracting, but so can using hands-free features.
"When you're trying to do these voice-activated controls in your vehicle or you're talking on the phone, you are missing visual clues while you are driving like a stop sign or brake lights or even a pedestrian," said Stephanie Milani from AAA. "When you're trying to do these voice-activated controls in your vehicle or you're talking on the phone, you are missing visual clues while you are driving like a stop sign or brake lights or even a pedestrian," said Stephanie Milani from AAA.
Voice calls, both hands free and not, measured at a 2, which is a moderate risk. Voice calls, both hands free and not, measured at a 2, which is a moderate risk.

By DREW GARDNER
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - A new AAA study reveals hands-free may not mean distraction free. 

The study shows while your hands may be on the wheel and your eyes on the road, the mental distractions are just as bad as if they weren't.

We've often been told cell phones and driving don't mix, but what about hands-free? It's the legal alternative and often praised as the safer way to go, until now.

"When you're trying to do these voice-activated controls in your vehicle or you're talking on the phone, you are missing visual clues while you are driving like a stop sign or brake lights or even a pedestrian," said Stephanie Milani from AAA of Tennessee.

AAA recently completed a study where it used mounted cameras to measure eye movement and brain function to see how distracted you really are while using these hands-free features.

They then created a five point scale, similar to the Staffir-Simpson hurricane rating system, to show how distracted each task makes you.

"Even listening to the radio, that registers as a one," said Milani. "That's not even a zero."

Voice calls, both hands free and not, also measured a 2, which is a moderate risk. Using voice activated features to respond emails and texts registered a 3, an extensive risk.

"While it doesn't take your eyes off of the road, it still takes your brain off of the road," said Milani. "You're still mentally distracted."

According to the study when it comes to your cell phone, hands free or not, you should limit yourself to nothing more than a short phone call. All other voice features should only focus on things that make the car function.

"Something as simple as climate control or turning on and off cruise control, you know that's a very simple task that doesn't take your focus away for very long," said Milani.

AAA now plans to take the findings to the automotive and electronics industries to try and limit future features from becoming too distracting, or make certain features disable when the car is in motion.

For now, the choice remains with the driver.

"In the end, even if your vehicle is equipped with these technologies, you can choose not to use them," said Milani.

To view the full report click here.

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