There’s a general idea that hands-free technology like virtual assistants (i.e. Siri and Cortana), Bluetooth, and dashboard systems make driving while using your phone safer. But is that the reality of the matter?
While cars are becoming computers themselves, it’s very possible that same tech could be distracting us from a car’s main use – driving. Research has proven that using a hands-free phone is just as dangerous as handling the phone yourself, and mental distractions can persist up to 27 seconds after completing the task. For example, a driver’s mind can continue to linger on the call after it’s ended or it can wander off to another topic without the driver realizing. On the other hand, setting up hands-free tech to complete a task (i.e. asking your GPS to input a location) limits the amount of attention your brain is putting on driving. Thus distracting you from seeing stop signs, pedestrians, vehicles, or other small hazards or warnings.
In addition, there is also the risk of errors with the tech. Whether it’s your GPS not understanding that you want to go to the Kroger five miles away instead of the one fifteen miles away or Siri mishearing what you want your reply to a text to be. This further distracts driver’s sometimes making them look away from the road down to the system or completely pulling them out of the task of driving. Tech tends to fail and if it fails while driving at 55 mph, it could be deadly.
With technology ever changing and becoming a big part of cars now, how can drivers equip themselves to avoid these extra distractions. Well, for setting up your GPS before you leave the driveway is one way. Additionally, turning the voice-over on so that even if the app accidentally closes you can still hear the directions is good precaution to have. Another is to limit phone calls and avoid texting all together. If the temptation to answer your phone is too much you always have the option of putting your smartphone on Do Not Disturb mode. And lastly, plugging your phone to charge while driving is great foresight to have. Running apps like Google Maps and Spotify while on data can drain your battery quickly. Instead of waiting for it to get down to 20% while on the highway having it already plugged in is great thinking. These easy tips will make driving in the 21st century that much should safer.