AAA debunks “hands-free is safe” theory

A recent follow-up study commissioned by the American Automobile Association concludes that hands-free technology does not decrease distracted driving. The study found that drivers continued to be distracted 27 seconds after the interaction ended. If a person was driving at 40 km/hr he would drive the length of more than three football fields in that time. The authors of the report state:

“The voice-based interactions evaluated in the current study were designed to be completing using simple voice commands. However, like others (e.g., Reimer et al., 2014), we found that many participants routinely glanced at the displays during interactions. Additionally, we found that interactions with the voice-based systems changed the frequency of glances to the forward roadway and side and rear-view mirrors. Based on these findings, it is increasingly evident that natural visual scanning behavior is fundamentally coupled to cognitive processing demands. Quite simply, it is incorrect to assume that talking to your car is an “eyes-free” activity.

The authors of an earlier study also commissioned by the AAA found:

“..we established that there are significant impairments to driving that stem from the diversion of attention from the task of operating a motor vehicle, and that the impairments to driving are directly related to the cognitive workload of these in-vehicle activities. Moreover, compared to the other activities studied (e.g., listening to the radio, conversing with passengers, etc.) we found that interacting with the speech-to-text system was the most cognitively distracting. This clearly suggests that the adoption of voice-based systems in the vehicle may have unintended consequences that adversely affect traffic safety.”

The full reports can be found at:

The take-home? Put the phone away when you’re driving.