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TX A&M study questions safety of drivers using voice-to-text technology

Many drivers in Harris County, Texas, are familiar with the various studies and campaigns pertaining to distracted driving. Unfortunately, with no state law banning driver cell phone use presently on the books, Texas drivers face a real risk of car accidents caused by motorists who were distracted at the time.

A study conducted earlier this year by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute revealed that even some of the “safer” means of multitasking while driving may not be enough to keep drivers safe. It is especially important for drivers in Texas to understand the risks of behaviors that may seem less risky than texting while driving.

Voice technology still a distraction

According to a press release posted on the Texas A&M Transportation Institute website, the 43 participants were observed during the study. These participants did not take part in a driving simulation; instead, they actually drove vehicles on a closed track. The drivers drove the track once without cell phones, once while texting and twice while using two major talk-to-text applications. Some key findings were that:

  • Driver performance was equally impaired regardless of whether drivers texted or used voice-to-text technology.
  • While doing either, drivers took on average of twice as long to respond to hazards such as pedestrians entering the street.
  • Using voice-to-text technology still caused drivers to take their eyes off the road.
  • Voice-to-text messages typically took longer to complete than text messages.
  • Drivers felt safer when using talk-to-text apps than they did when texting.

The study findings indicate that hands-free technology is not always as safe as people believe. The drivers in this study showed a sense of confidence in voice-to-text technology, even though it caused the same impairment as texting and required an even longer interval of distraction. It is important for Texas drivers to remember that distraction can take many forms, all of which can be dangerous.

Distracted driving in Texas

Data regarding distracted driving and related accidents in Texas are somewhat limited. According to Dallas News, a website affiliated with the Dallas Morning News, cell phone use was listed as a contributing factor in more than 3,000 accidents that occurred in 2012. Dallas News also reports that “driver inattention” – which can include cell phone use as well as attending to children or pets, eating, grooming and more – was cited as a factor in more than 80,000 accidents.

Although cell phones are not the only cause of driver inattention, the discrepancy between the number of inattention accidents and cell phone accidents leads some experts to question whether driver cell phone use is being underreported. According to Dallas News, authorities may have less incentive to collect data on cell phone use during accident investigations since cell phone use is not actually illegal.

It is known that driver cell phone use affected at least 3,000 motorists last year, and it will likely affect many drivers this year. The findings of the A&M study indicate that even drivers who try to be conscientious may still be putting themselves – not to mention others – in danger of serious personal injury. It is important for motorists to always have their full attention on the road and accept that no form of multi-tasking while driving is truly safe.

If you have been hurt in an accident with another driver and believe that he or she was distracted or otherwise acting negligently, you should speak with an attorney about pursuing compensation.