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New hands-free technologies still a dangerous distraction for drivers, says US research

That’s according to new research by the American Automobiles Association’s Foundation for Traffic Safety which found that mental distractions can persist long after completing a task.

The researchers compared new hands-free technologies in ten 2015 vehicles in the US and three types of smart phones. The analysis found that all systems studied increased mental distraction to potentially unsafe levels, lasting as long as 27 seconds after completing a distracting task. At the 25mph speed limit in the study, drivers travelled the length of nearly three football fields during this time. When using the least distracting systems, drivers remained impaired for more than 15 seconds after completing a task.

“The lasting effects of mental distraction pose a hidden and pervasive danger that would likely come as a surprise to most drivers,” said Peter Kissinger, president and CEO of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. “The results indicate that motorists could miss stop signs, pedestrians and other vehicles while the mind is readjusting to the task of driving.”

“The massive increase in voice-activated technologies in cars and phones represents a growing safety problem for drivers,” continued Marshall Doney, AAA’s president and CEO. “We are concerned that these new systems may invite driver distraction, even as overwhelming scientific evidence concludes that hands-free is not risk free.” 

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Natalie Middleton

Natalie has worked as a fleet journalist for 16 years, previously as assistant editor on the former Company Car magazine before joining Fleet World in 2006. Prior to this, she worked on a range of B2B titles, including Insurance Age and Insurance Day. As Business Editor, Natalie ensures the group websites and newsletters are updated with the latest news.