Hands-Free Texting Is Dangerous Too

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We know that texting while driving isn't safe. But neither is using a voice-to-text app, new research says.

It seems obvious that looking down and using your hands to type is a distraction from driving. But a new study indicates that using voice-controlled texting isn’t any better.

The Texas Transportation Institute had 43 licensed drivers try a closed course four times each, driving about 30 miles per hour for 10 minutes, USA Today says.

In some scenarios they texted with their hands, and sometimes with a voice-to-text app for iPhones. In others they used an app for Android phones, and sometimes they didn’t text at all.

Drivers were required to send one text, read and reply to three more, and read one without replying. The back-and-forth was kept simple — things like, “Are you free tonight?” and “Sure, where do you want to meet?”

While the drivers reported feeling safer using the voice app, manual texting was faster, and driving performance was the same no matter how they texted. Drivers took twice as long to react when texting and spent less time watching the road either way. (The article doesn’t mention whether Android or iPhone versions of a voice-to-text app resulted in better performance.)

A National Safety Council representative told the paper that the method doesn’t matter because mental concentration is still required to text.

In 2011, more than 3,000 people died and nearly 400,000 people were injured in distracted driving crashes. In 2010, nearly one in five injury crashes involved distracted drivers.

Stacy Johnson

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