Study: No hands text is no safer than using your fingers

Research shows no difference in driving response time no matter what kind of texting

By Tony Statz - Producer
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TEXAS - If you thought using a voice-to-text app while driving would keep you safer behind the wheel, think again! New research from the Texas Transportation Institute found using the voice app is no safer than using your fingers.

READ: Daydreaming while driving more dangerous than texting, study says

The study put 43 drivers of all ages to the test on a closed road course. It found the drivers response time was about as twice as long, when they did any texting, compared to not texting at all. There was no difference between the voice app and regular texting.

One interesting observation, manual texting actually took slightly less time than using voice-to-text.

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.

Read: Ala. man caught 'double-texting'

"That is not surprising at all," John Ulczycki, vice president of the National Safety Council told USA Today. "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."

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.

Feds Try to Limit Distractions


Coincidentally, on the day this research was making news, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced new guidelines to encourage automakers to limit the distraction risks built into vehicles.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray Lahood said, "These guidelines recognize that today's drivers appreciate technology, while providing automakers with a way to balance the innovation consumers want with the safety we all need."

The new guidelines are voluntary. They include recommendations to limit the time a driver must take his eyes off the road to perform any task to two seconds at a time and twelve seconds total. They also suggest that several operations be disabled unless the vehicle is stopped or in park. Those activities include: 

  • Manual texting or internet browsing
  • Video-based entertainment and communications like video phoning and video conferencing.
  • Display of certain types of text, including text messages, web pages, social media content




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