Staying alert is vitally important on the road. Even a quick glance down at a phone or being distracted by a flashy billboard for a second can lead to devastating consequences. This could include loss of life, expensive litigation, and extensive property damage. Realizing how deadly phones, radios, and other distractions can be, innovative companies are hard at work developing hands-free car systems to help drivers stay focused.

These programs typically combine GPS functionality, temperature controls, and the voice commands people have begun equating with Apple’s Siri or Microsoft’s Cortana. But while these technologies are impressive, are they really saving lives?

The Dangers of Technology and Driving

Driving and technology do not always mix, but automotive manufacturers and tech companies are working cooperatively to keep everyone safe on the road. Recently, however, AAA studies have researched how phones, entertainment systems, and tools such as GPS monitors distract drivers. Interestingly, hands-free does not mean distraction-free – and depending on the system in place, some drivers remain distracted long after a device is used.

These systems, though they allow drivers to keep their eyes on the road, are not necessarily safe. In fact, many are as bad (or worse) than texting and driving or talking on a phone. Although they are convenient, giving hands-free voice commands, dictating messages, and commanding an in-car system to make a call, present significant safety risks.

The Least and Most Distracting Technology

The best-performing systems affected driver cognition on the same level as listening to music or an audiobook. The worst systems were as distracting as live Tweeting on the road.

AAA’s research found that the best hands-free in-car systems include:

  • Chevy Equinox
  • Buick Lacrosse
  • Toyota 4Runner

The worst systems belonged to the:

  • Hyundai Sonata
  • Microsoft Cortana
  • Mazda 6

The study identified email access as the most distracting feature though hands-free calls were also a significant diversion; the mental effect of speaking on the phone can be as disrupting as holding a phone in your hand. Voice-activated and responsive systems such as Siri and Cortana are also major risk factors.

The Takeaway

In the study of hands-free in-car systems, risk factors were ranked from moderate to high, based on their intuitiveness and complexity. However, regardless of the tools a driver uses on the road, distraction is a significant problem that restricts a person’s reaction time, visibility, and awareness. In the time it takes to send one text message while traveling at 55 mph, a person’s car can cover more than 100 yards. The consequences of such actions can include:

  • Missing red lights
  • Hitting pedestrians
  • Veering off the road
  • Colliding with another vehicle

Though these hands-free systems are relatively new and introduce their own unique problems, researchers are working to outline the problems – and innovators like Google and Apple are competing to develop the safest possible systems. Regardless of what the future holds, you must stay alert and know the laws and behaviors that affect everyone on the road.

Contact a West Virginia Personal Injury Lawyer for Your Distracted Driving Claim

Using a cell phone or changing the radio affects a driver’s mental workload, and even wireless or voice-command technologies can incriminate someone in a personal injury claim. Minimize the use of any such device to stay safe while traveling.

Distracted driving may not be as taboo as drinking and driving, but the consequences can be just as severe. Collisions cause tens of thousands of deaths in America every year, and they caused over 4.4 million injuries in 2015 – and distracted driving is a major contributor. If an incident like this has landed you in the hospital or contributed to extensive property damage, you do not have to go it alone. For for information about your injury claim, contact Tiano O’Dell, PLLC to speak with a personal injury attorney in West Virginia.