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Two Studies Conclude that Voice-To-Text Technology is NOT a Safe Alternative for Drivers

Scientists and traffic safety experts have recently published two studies measuring the effects of using voice-to-text technology while driving. The results of said studies are both surprising and alarming. It turns out that having “Siri” write out your text messages is at least as dangerous as typing the message yourself.

On April 23, 2013, researchers at Texas A&M University’s Texas Transportation Institute conducted a study that measured the effect that using a voice-to-text technology has on a person behind the wheel. It was the first of its kind. The study compares the effects of manual texting and voice texting on a driver operating on a closed road course. This is yet another study that documents the

TTI’s researchers had test subjects operate a vehicle four separate times; once without texting, once while manually texting, and two additional times while using one of two different voice-to-text applications. The experiment measured how long it took the subjects to complete the message, the amount of time the driver watched the roadway during the messaging, and how long it took the subjects to notice an indicator light that lit up randomly on the vehicle’s dashboard.

The results were surprising in many ways. First, the length of time it took for subjects to complete the text message was very similar for manual texting and voice texting. Driver performance and response time also was also noticeably decreased while distracted by either of the texting methods. According to this video summary of the study, response time was doubled while drivers were engaging in either type of text messaging.

Perhaps the most surprising result was that, both manual texting and voice texting resulted in the driver spending substantially less time watching the road, essentially negating the purpose of the voice-to-text technology for many people. There is a common misconception that using voice texting, and thus eliminating the use of a keyboard, allows a driver to keep his or her eyes on the roadway. The researchers involved in the Texas A&M study say voice-to-text is just as dangerous as manual texting.

Scientists working for (AAA) Foundation for Traffic Safety agree. In a joint venture with the University of Utah, AAA researchers concluded that using in-vehicle speech-to-text technology is the most distracting of six different tasks studied. Voice texting was compared to: (1) listening to the radio; (2) listening to an audio book; (3) conversing with a passenger; (4) conversing on a hand held cell phone; and (5) conversing on a hands-free cell phone. Use of interactive advanced speech-to-text technology resulted in the most distraction to drivers.

The full report of the study notes three sources of driver distraction: Visual; Manual; and Cognitive. Thee (AAA) project focused on cognitive distraction, as it is more difficult to observe and measure. Researchers measured driver response times, brainwaves and eye movements of drivers in a series of tests to determine the cognitive effects of conducting various tasks while behind the wheel. The purpose of the study was to label each of the different tasks on a 1 to 5 scale, with 1 being the least mentally distracting, and 5 being the most mentally distracting. Researchers assigned the use of voice-to text software a 3, higher than any of the other activities in the study. See here for a full explanation of what the AAA’s rating meant.

These two studies lead to the same conclusion: texting while driving is unsafe using any method currently available. Recently, the Florida legislature passed into law a ban on texting while driving. This is a step toward stopping distracted driving in Florida. Hopefully, the new evidence provided by the AAA and Texas A&M studies will inspire the legislature to take another step for safe driving and address the issue of voice texting. However, considering the amount of time it took to create the texting ban, I won’t hold my breath.

If you have been injured as a result of a distracted driver, call the Clearwater injury attorneys of Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA today at: (727) 415-6900.