A new report from AAA says hands-free technologies that are designed to help you keep your eyes on the road while you're behind the wheel actually compromise your driving ability.
Researchers at the University of Utah measured brain waves, eye movement and other metrics to find out what happens to drivers' mental workload as they work with hands-free technologies, like voice-recognition GPS software or driver assistance programs.
The study found that as mental workload and distractions increased, reaction times slowed and brain function was compromised. Drivers scanned the road less and missed visual cues, potentially resulting in missing crucial information while driving, like stop signs or even pedestrians in the road.
AAA predicts as many as 9,000,000 drivers use hands-free technologies in their car now, and that number will increase five-fold by 2018.
“There is a looming public safety crisis ahead with the future proliferation of these in-vehicle technologies,” said AAA President and CEO Robert L. Darbelnet. “It’s time to consider limiting new and potentially dangerous mental distractions built into cars, particularly with the common public misperception that hands-free means risk-free.”
Researchers say the hands-free technologies lead to a sort of tunnel vision or inattention blindness where drivers don't see potential hazards right in front of them.
AAA now urges automotive and electronics companies to look into limiting voice-activated technology in cars and disabling certain voice-to-text capabilities in gadgets.