Thursday, April 25, 2013

Texting and driving is still bad...even when using voice-to-text apps.

New research suggests it's just as unsafe to use a voice-to-text mobile app while driving as it is to text manually.

The new study is by the Texas Transportation Institute, which says this is the first research on whether there are driving safety advantages in using voice-to-text apps.

Thestudy involved 43 licensed drivers in a 2009 Ford Explorer. They each drove four times for about 10 minutes at 30 mph: while not texting at all, while texting manually, while texting with the voice-to-text app on the iPhone, and while doing so with the Android smartphone voice-to-text app.

The study found that driver response times were slower no matter which method of texting was used. Drivers took about twice as long to react as when they weren't texting and spent less time looking at the road no matter what texting method they used, the study says.

Interestingly, the researchers found that driver performance was roughly the same with both methods, although manual texting actually required slightly less time than using voice-to-text.

Each driver completed five text messaging tasks: send one, read and reply to three, and simply read one. The texts were from a short script: "They were things people would say in text messages, short phrases, like, 'hey, what are you doing tonight,'" says Christine Yager, associate transportation researcher at the institute. "They would get a reply, and follow up, 'yes, where do you want to meet?' "

Wireless providers and mobile app developers created voice-to-text apps to reduce the effects of manual texting. Drivers in the study reported feeling safer when using a voice-to-text app than when texting manually.

"That is not surprising at all," says John Ulczycki, vice president of the National Safety Council. "We have believed that for some time, that voice-activated texting is not any safer. There are two reasons for that. First, the technology is not yet perfected. Messages often come out garbled, which can take even more time. And second, it's really the same kind of mental concentration that's involved here. They're still taking their mental concentration off the road."

Corporate officials from iPhone did not reply to a request for comment; Android officials declined to comment.

In 2011, 3,331 people were killed and 387,000 injured in distracted-driving crashes, according to the Transportation Department. In 2010, 18% of all injury crashes involved a distracted driver.

"Texting is advancing so rapidly," Yager says. "It's important to ask questions about how this new technology affects driver safety and behavior. It's a constantly evolving process to understand distracted driving because technology is improving every day.

"We're not necessarily saying you shouldn't use Siri (on iPhone) or Vlingo (on Android)," she says. "What we are saying is in this particular study, the voice-to-mail texting and manual texting are virtually the same in how they can compromise safety."

Source: USA Today

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