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Are you a distracted driver? Consider this.  Have you ever had your morning cup of coffee on the way to work or hit the drive-through for a quick on-the-road breakfast?  What about picking up the crumbs you dropped?  Or taking a call or text from your spouse, kids, or boss?  You always took extra precautions so you were never completely distracted, right?

Distracted driving, especially texting while driving, is a contributing factor in thousands of auto accidents every year.   To combat this problem, many new cell phones come equipped with voice control applications.  While drivers who use these hands-free devices believe they are safer, many questions have been raised whether hands-free really means distraction-free.

“Texting drivers may believe they’re being more careful when they use the voice-to-text method, but new research findings suggest that those applications offer no real safety advantage over manual texting.”

A recent study by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI), measured the performance of 43 drivers in three scenarios:

  1. On a closed course without any cell phone use.
  2. While using a voice-to-text application.
  3. While manually sending a text message.

Cameras tracked drivers’ eye gaze, and GPS was used to record change in lane positioning. Driver-response time was measured by how long it took drivers to send a message and their reaction time to a light that turned on at random intervals during the exercise.  On average, when using the voice-to-text software, drivers took longer to complete a text than when typing manually.  The results showed that response times increased significantly during text entry regardless of the entry method. Both methods of entering text messages caused the drivers to spend significantly less time with their eyes on the road; their reaction time nearly doubled.  Surprisingly, it took drivers longer to complete the same texting task using the voice-to-text applications than it did when texting manually.

Although the findings offer a clearer understanding of the dangers of texting while driving, according to Christine Yager, a TTI Associate Transportation Researcher who managed the study, “these new insights offer only a part of the knowledge needed to improve roadway safety.”  “Understanding the distracted driving issue is an evolving process, and this study is but one step in that process,” she says.

Many states have laws against cell phone use and texting while driving, but hands free, voice-to-text remains legal in every state.  No matter how safe you “feel”, a distracted driver is a dangerous driver. You owe it to yourself and your loved ones to keep your hands on the wheel and your mind on the road because even if you are an attentive driver, another driver may not be.

I ask my readers the same question asked in the study:  In your opinion, is the difficulty of texting affected by the mechanism with which you text (manual texting versus voice-to-text programs)? Why or why not?

Mark Bello has thirty-six years experience as a trial lawyer and fourteen years as an underwriter and situational analyst in the lawsuit funding industry. He is the owner and founder of Lawsuit Financial Corporation which helps provide cash flow solutions and consulting when necessities of life litigation funding is needed by a plaintiff involved in pending, personal injury, litigation. Bello is a Justice Pac member of the American Association for Justice, Sustaining and Justice Pac member of the Michigan Association for Justice, Member of Public Justice, Public Citizen, the American Bar Association, the State Bar of Michigan and the Injury Board.

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