Just because you're not fiddling with your cell phone doesn't mean you're more focused on the road, AAA finds.
We're still years away from perfecting Jetsons-like flying cars, so for now, many drivers have resorted to using hands-free technology in order to stay safe and connected while on the road.
One problem: The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety says hands-free technology is still pretty dangerous. The organization released a report that is says provides "the most comprehensive evidence to-date that 'hands-free' doesn't mean 'risk free.'"
"We already know that drivers can miss stop signs, pedestrians, and other cars while using voice technologies because their minds are not fully focused on the road ahead," AAA CEO Bob Darbelnet said in a statement. "We now understand that current shortcomings in these products, intended as safety features, may unintentionally cause greater levels of cognitive distraction."
Working with researchers at the University of Utah, AAA evaluated common voice-activated in-vehicle technologies, validating the obvious: poor voice-recognition software increases distraction, and composing text-based messages by voice is more distracting than listening to them.
"Technologies used in the car that rely on voice communications may have unintended consequences that adversely affect road safety," said Peter Kissinger, CEO of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. "The level of distraction and the impact on safety can vary tremendously based on the task or the system the driver is using."
All hope is not lost, however. The auto club believes developers can improve the safety of their products by making them less complicated, more accurate, and generally easier to use.
In the meantime, AAA encourages motorists to minimize cognitive distractions by limiting the use of voice-based technologies.
"It is clear that not all voice systems are created equal, and today's imperfect systems can lead to driver distraction," Darbelnet said. "AAA is confident that it will be possible to make safer systems in the future."
Stephanie began as a PCMag reporter in May 2012. She moved to New York City from Frederick, Md., where she worked for four years as a multimedia reporter at the second-largest daily newspaper in Maryland.