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Is voice texting actually safe?

A number of our readers in Houston can recall the Chevrolet Cruze commercial that depicts a young man dropping his date at home, then quickly checking his Twitter feed to see how she described her time with him. After speaking a command to his console, a voice responded "best date ever!"

The commercial was an example of the new offerings automakers are making available to entice younger drivers in Texas who are prone to use their cell phones to check their Facebook statuses, emails or send text messages, all while behind the wheel. However, what appears to be a clever innovation to promote safety could also be seen as an additional danger for drivers.

A study conducted by the University of Utah and the American Automobile Association (AAA) found that hands-free texting interfaces are not the safe alternative touted by automakers. Researchers observed subjects while they drove cars and attempted to send voice-initiated text messages. They measured eye movement, brainwaves and other factors to determine how much attention was diverted when performing multiple tasks behind the wheel. 

They found that drivers who used voice-activated text messaging were just as distracted as drivers who used cell phones. In fact, some drivers were more distracted using voice to text systems. This led AAA to call for restrictions on how voice activated systems may be used in cars.

Naturally, there are skeptics who will question the study's methodology and findings, but it is a reminder of the duty that drivers have to use reasonable care when driving. 

Source: ABC, Hands free texting devices pose great risk to drivers, June 12, 2013

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