You may know the dangers of driving while using your hand-held or hands-free cellphone. As a way to reduce the amount of distraction caused by using these devices, you may have tried using voice-activated technology. Car manufacturers designed this technology as a way to allow drivers to perform certain tasks, all while keeping their eyes on the road and their hands on the steering wheel. A study released by AAA found, however, than even voice-activated technology can cause significant amounts of distraction. The levels of cognitive distraction varied across different vehicle systems, as well as the difficulty of the task being performed.

Drivers participating in the study were asked to perform a set of tasks while behind the wheel. These included the following:

  •          Use voice commands to dial a contact, change a CD and change the radio station
  •          Listen to text messages and email using a synthetic, computerized voice
  •          Listen to text messages and email using a natural voice
  •          Use Siri to send text messages, make calendar appointments, update social media status, listen to text messages and

As drivers engaged in the tasks, researchers measured their heart rate, reaction time and mental workload. They also factored in drivers’ personal, subjective assessments of what they felt while engaging in the tasks.

The results showed a significant variance between voice-activated technologies implemented in vehicle systems. Systems that were more difficult to use caused more cognitive distraction than those that were more user-friendly.

This information is intended to educate and should not be taken as legal advice.