Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Communications Transportation

Hands-Free Or Voice-Activated Texting Not Safer 157

Posted by Soulskill
from the guess-everybody-will-have-to-go-back-to-doing-it-the-old-way dept.
Meshach writes "A recent study (PDF) detailed in the Washington Post verifies that using hands-free or voice-activated texting is no safer than texting with your hands while you are driving a car. Using a handheld device to tap out a text message while driving has been banned in many states and provinces. From the article: '"One of the common comments was that they felt an inclination to look down at the screen to see if it heard them correctly, so that could be one possible explanation of why they were not looking at the roadway more frequently," Yager said. She said drivers said they felt safer when using voice-activated texting than when entering messages on a keyboard. "Perhaps it is because they view it as safer and therefore it must be, but still they have this inclination to look down at the screen," she said. "We found that their driving performance suffered equally with both methods." As has been proven in studies of cellphone conversations, Yager said drivers engaged in any form of texting were distracted by the communication effort.'"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Hands-Free Or Voice-Activated Texting Not Safer

Comments Filter:
  • only partially agree (Score:3, Informative)

    by noh8rz10 (2716597) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @05:38PM (#43530065)
    In response to a big push by LEO in CA on the cell phone laws, I recently got one of those dorky 90's dash mounts for my phone. it's great because the phone is pretty much in my line of sight, but it's still distracting to activate the voice sms dictation. So I would say it's MUCH better than doing it by hand, but still not as good as not doing it!
    • by AuMatar (183847) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @05:50PM (#43530223)

      If you have an android phone, I wrote an app, TextSoundly, that automatically detects when you're moving at driving speeds and turns on voice texting/response.

      • by ranpel (1255408)
        Dock it in the pirate bay and ask people to pay if they like it, preferably before it saves their life. Safety first I'd say.

        It sounds like a requisite function for those that might communicate as if they needn't pay attention to driving and very helpful for those that may know driving requires a good degree of concentration but need and want to communicate anyway. Good luck with your app.
    • by TheCarp (96830) <sjc@car[ ]et.net ['pan' in gap]> on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @05:53PM (#43530247) Homepage

      However, the problem is that this study is only looking at reaction time, which is pretty limited of a measure. This is especially true since its also been found that cell phone accidents are likely not entirely caused by reaction time issues.

      http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2012/08/why-cell-phone-bans-dont-work.html [sciencemag.org]

      So, bad drivers, the ones who get in accidents don't just use cell phones, they drive more wrecklessly while using them. They choose to use them at particularly dangerous times. They do, exactly what most people choose not to do.

      The problem, quite simply, is not cell phones. They are just the device people have chosen to measure. The problem is not cell phones because, the problem is not reaction time. The problem is judgement and the problem is risk assesment within certain individuals.

      • by Belial6 (794905)
        Cell phones also fall prey to confirmation bias. The way the data is collected, is that if a person is using a cell phone, the accident is listed as a cell phone related accident. This is the case even if the driver hasn't slept in three days and the conversation they are having is the only thing keeping them awake while they are legally stopped at a red light and the other vehicle is a car smashing into them from behind because the driver was trying to see their baby in a rear facing car seat that is in
      • This is not the only study to reach this conclusion: [manufacturing.net]

        Jim Hedlund, a safety consultant and former National Highway Traffic Safety Administration official, recently examined 300 cellphone studies for the Governors Highway Safety Association. He couldn't recall a single study that showed drivers talking on a headset or hands-free phone were at any less risk of an accident than drivers with one hand on the wheel and a phone in the other.

        It does add:

        What's missing is hard evidence that accidents are increasing because of cellphone use. One reason is that U.S. privacy laws have made it difficult for researchers to study whether cell phones were in use in accidents in the U.S. The two large studies that have been done — in Canada and Australia — found drivers were four times more likely to have a crash if talking on a cellphone. It didn't matter whether the cellphone was hands-free or hand-held.

        So this is just another bit of evidence that the two are really no different, and there appears to be no suggestion to the contrary, that hands-free using cell phone drivers are as safe as ones not using a cell phone.

        Speaking from personal experience, I do think hands-free cell phone use is distracting in a way that a person sitting next to you isn't. I'm wondering if the connection is out, wondering if they can hear me, fiddling with the

        • I do think hands-free cell phone use is distracting in a way that a person sitting next to you isn't. I'm wondering if the connection is out, wondering if they can hear me, fiddling with the phone, making sure the phone isn't falling on the floor, trying to understand what they're saying.

          You really worry a lot about your cell conversations, don't you?

          For me, the main difference between talking on my cell (bluetooth headset, mind you) and to my wife sitting beside me is that I am much more likely to turn

          • Background processing. Anyway, my point is that while you may hypothesize that talking on a handsfree headset is no different from talking to a passenger, the studies indicate this is not the case: that most people's brains for whatever reason sees a cell phone conversation as different from talking to a person, and that talking on the phone is something they need to focus on more than driving.
          • You think that's the case, but I respectfully submit that you're probably wrong. I point to the studies cited in Tom Vanderbilt's book "Traffic", which I don't have handy right now. But as I remember, the studies (performed with in-car sensors, including eye-tracking cameras) showed that people on a cellphone call tend to fix their gaze rigidly forward, stop looking at their mirrors, and are less likely to change speed. You may be looking at the road, but you're not really paying very close attention.
      • I agree with the parent, reaction time is only a single measure of driver "effectiveness". I can't help but wonder if we are asking the wrong questions in these studies. A better study would compare the accident rates in locations that have hands-free/no-text laws with those that don't.

        One study by the Highway Loss Data Institute [iihs.org] indicates a slight increase in accidents after no-texting laws are introduced. One possible explanation is that with the new laws, drivers continue to text but with the phone b

        • by twisteddk (201366)

          Well, I can add that here in the EU, we have many different laws, so we can actually measure the difference, and have many road safety studies done also regarding cellphone usage.

          And one of the remarkable things was a Swedish study (in Sweden there is no hands-free driving laws) some years ago that showed that the act of conversing over a phone was what distracted you, not the fact that you held the phone in your hands.Thus pretty much shooting a big hole in the "hands-free lobby"s argumentation. As far as

        • by TheCarp (96830)

          In the realm of personal anecdotes, I have noticed something that dovetails well with this data. Bad drivers, that is, the people I know who get in more accidents and otherwise drive in ways that make me not want to be a passenger in their car.... they seem to also talk on the cell phone more and... they are the people who never seem to think they have a problem with it.

          What I mean by that is, I have used my cell phone to talk, back when I had a flip phone with physical keys, i would even text. The thing is

      • they drive more wrecklessly while using them

        If they were driving wrecklessly, there wouldn't be a problem. Perhaps you meant recklessly?

      • So, bad drivers, the ones who get in accidents don't just use cell phones, they drive more wreckfully while using them.

        FTFY. Unless you meant recklessly that is.

      • by mjwx (966435)

        However, the problem is that this study is only looking at reaction time, which is pretty limited of a measure

        But a very, very important measure.

        Reaction time covers the time it takes you for your brain to react, to actually tell you body to do something.

        A 3 second reaction time (not unusual for a tired or distracted human) at 60 KPH means you travel 50 metres before even hitting the brakes, it takes another 18 meters to stop with good tyres on dry bitumen. 60 KPH is not particularly fast either. F

    • by SternisheFan (2529412) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @05:56PM (#43530263)
      "Yager said drivers engaged in any form of texting were distracted by the communication effort.'"

      The brain can multitask 4 things at any one time, driving a car uses most of the brain's abilities. You throw another distraction into the mix and you're basically 'driving impaired'. I've been a passenger while the driver was engrossed in a hands free conversation staring at his phone on the seat while making his point. I say, "brake... brake.... BRAKE!!!" until he looks up and avoids slamming into the slowed car in front of us.

      Everyone thinks they are the best driver in the world until they aren't. Safely pull over somewhere before you use any electronic gizmo, reach for the item you dropped. Graveyards are filled with too many who died for dumb actions while driving.

      • You really can't multi-task unless it is in your muscle memory.

        What you are really doing is time slicing. And even if it is in your muscle memory, it still takes a time slice- just a smaller one.

        And having a passenger in the car takes another time slice too. More if they are saying something interesting or distracting.

        • by mjwx (966435)

          You really can't multi-task unless it is in your muscle memory.

          What you are really doing is time slicing. And even if it is in your muscle memory, it still takes a time slice- just a smaller one.

          And having a passenger in the car takes another time slice too. More if they are saying something interesting or distracting.

          This, very few humans can truly multi-task. Must just use time division multiplexing (like a multi thread, single core processor)

          So when they are paying any attention to their phone, they are paying zero attention to their driving.

          With a passenger, the passenger has the advantage of being aware of the situation so they can shut up if things get risky.

          I've had two accidents in my driving life. Both times I was rear ended by a distracted driver, the first was too busy eating his breakfast, the second

          • It's a bell curve and to some extent good judgement on when you can do another activity matters.

            But everyone thinks they are in the 1% who can get away with it and even the 1% can't predict that just as they glance at the screen to confirm it's correct that the car ahead of the breaks hard.

      • You're supposed to yell "Pull up! Pull up!"

        Oh, wait, wrong movie.

    • by ackthpt (218170) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @06:22PM (#43530527) Homepage Journal

      In response to a big push by LEO in CA on the cell phone laws, I recently got one of those dorky 90's dash mounts for my phone. it's great because the phone is pretty much in my line of sight, but it's still distracting to activate the voice sms dictation. So I would say it's MUCH better than doing it by hand, but still not as good as not doing it!

      Yep, driving while slightly less distracted is still driving distracted. All it takes is one of those morons who changes lanes without a signal or believes passing with no room to spare will work because you'll see them and you're sunk. Doesn't matter who is right or wrong, if you could have avoided it you could have avoided having your car towed off and dealing with the logistics of being without it. Assuming you survive.

      • by Archangel Michael (180766) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @06:37PM (#43530677) Journal

        This is why I tell my kids, that driving takes 100% concentration. That while most of the time, 50-80% is usually good enough, you can't predict when the asshole in the left lane is going to swerve right three lanes because he is about to miss his exit, because he was too busy getting a BJ from his boyfriend or talking/txting/watching a video on a cell phone.

        The point is, it doesn't matter what the other guy is doing, he is the danger. If you're 100% concentrating on driving you have a much better chance of avoiding the accident. AND that is worth everything.

        • by ackthpt (218170)

          What that driver in the left lane is doing is seeing how many cars he/she can pass, because it's something fun to break up the monotony -- and then they suddenly realize their amusement has distracted them from getting off the highway where they want to. Seen it happen many times. Not just in California.

        • by guttentag (313541)

          ...you can't predict when the asshole in the left lane is going to swerve right three lanes...

          I think this text should be printed on every license plate above the plate number as a reminder. Forget the "sesquicentennial" or "first in flight" or "STATE is for lovers" stuff... we don't need people daydreaming on the road, we need people jolted to a state of alertness. Screw the censors who would say you can't put "asshole" on a license plate... it needs to be shocking. In fact, it should be followed by this in smaller print: "If you can read this from your car you are about to die when I hit my brakes

    • OP should say "yet another study", because this is hardly the first study to show this. I know of another one that was at least a couple of years ago.

      But I guess in a way that's the point: these studies have continued to show the same thing: hands-free conversations are no safer than phone-to-ear conversations.

      Having said that, and I know lots of people will disagree with me, but there have been other studies showing that in regard to cell phones and accidents, correlation most definitely does not equ
  • Eyes on the road! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MasterOfGoingFaster (922862) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @05:42PM (#43530115) Homepage

    If only there was a way to communicate in real time, via 2 way voice...

    Someday.... someday...

    • You mean where you have press a soft-button to initiate a call, speak the name, then quickly check the display to see if it's correct, or look to press the soft "cancel" button, or see if it has dialed successfully, or to change to the correct bluetooth, or to change the volume, or to hang up?

      Lord help you if you should have to manually tune a touchscreen radio receiver, intialize a podcast, or request a detour from a GPS unit.

      I can "voice text" with less interaction than dialing "hands free", and with as l

      • by Nidi62 (1525137)

        You mean where you have press a soft-button to initiate a call, speak the name, then quickly check the display to see if it's correct, or look to press the soft "cancel" button, or see if it has dialed successfully, or to change to the correct bluetooth, or to change the volume, or to hang up?

        Lord help you if you should have to manually tune a touchscreen radio receiver, intialize a podcast, or request a detour from a GPS unit.

        I can "voice text" with less interaction than dialing "hands free", and with as little distraction as verifying my speed or the time of day from a non-headsup display.I cannot safely text, read more than a short phrase (6-8 words) on my phone (which is closer to my line of sight than the speedometer), or do any more than absolutely minimum music navigation on my touchscreen head unit (holy shit - finding an album is like asking for death!).

        If you have to make a call that is so important that you need to do it in the car, then pull over. Otherwise, wait until you get where you're going.

  • So is talking to a passenger as distracting as talking to a hands-free cell phone?

    • Apparently not, but they figure the reason for such is the passengers tend to compensate with their own awareness for the distraction they add. Remote people can't compensate in this manner, and obviously the phone itself does not either.
      • by Xtifr (1323)

        And wow, it scares me that someone on Slashdot doesn't know this and had to ask. It's not like it's some big secret that's being supressed or something. The question comes up pretty much every time the hazards of combining cell phones and driving are discussed, and the answer is always the same. Heck, typing in "is talking to a passenger as distracting as talking to a hands-free cell-phone?" into Google gives pages and pages that answer the question.

  • Is to place heavy fines on any one caught driving while in possession of a mobile device.
    Just think of the added revenue!

    • by msauve (701917)
      "place heavy fines on any one caught driving while in possession of a mobile device."

      Like, say, a motor vehicle?
  • Yet another poor quality study.

  • All they need to do is pass a law prohibiting any sort of distraction in the vehicle. Sunlight, fog, rain, snow, children, radios, cell phones, pagers, books, newspapers, makeup, bad days at work, bad days at home, sun visors, allergies, bodily functions, passengers, etc. etc. Once all the distractions are outlawed, there will never be another accident on the road ever again, proving that the government can indeed regulate us to safety! -------- There really needs to be a "sarcasm" font....
  • Survey schmuervey (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hognoxious (631665) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @06:36PM (#43530671) Homepage Journal

    She said drivers said they felt safer when using voice-activated texting than when entering messages on a keyboard.

    What did cyclists, pedestrians and other drivers think?

    The surviving ones, I mean.

    • You mean the cyclist travelling at half the speed of traffic who swerved suddenly into the path of a car to avoid a sewer grate, or the pedestrian with the ear buds in who stepped into moving traffic away from the crosswalk? I hate distracted drivers, too, but making any sudden move into oncoming traffic without warning is a bad idea even if the driver of a modern 3000lb vehicle with a 100ft stopping distance IS paying attention.

      • Nice strawman ya got there - it'd be a shame if anything happened to it.

        • by mjr167 (2477430)
          I once watched a pedestrian walk into the side of a bus. The bus wasn't moving. It wasn't even at a crosswalk or a bus stop. It was stopped in the middle of the road waiting on a red light. So um yeah. Pedestrians really are that dumb.
  • Why not just phone? if they're not there, leave a message. I must be missing something...
  • In other news Seat belts and airbags made users feel safer and drive recklessly. Lets ban seat belts and airbags!

  • by YrWrstNtmr (564987) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @06:46PM (#43530757)
    Voice, bluetooth, text, handheld, hendsfree, VoiceToText.....screw you.

    As someone who is waiting on a (too small) settlement check for my destroyed vehicle, all I can say is put the fucking phone away and drive the damn car.
    Texting teen blows a red light at 60, and I'm lucky the only thing destroyed was my vehicle. I am still vertical and breathing.

    Hanging upside down from the seatbelt, covered in broken glass was not the way I wanted to spend the afternoon.
  • by Chewbacon (797801) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @06:52PM (#43530807)
    Right, they're looking at the screen and it defeats the purpose of voice activated hands free. I use Siri for quick texts while I'm driving. "Tell my wife I'm on my way." Siri says something about sending a text and "Ready to send it?" "Read it." Siri reads it back. "Send it." If Siri is having a deaf moment, I'll leave it alone until I get to a red light or I'll pull off the road if needed. Like condoms for birth control, voice activated hands free is only safer if done right.
    • I've tried using my Android phone for dictating texts. It works nice overall if I talk slowly, but it is prone to random glitches. Like the time when I said "each" and it typed out "eat sh**" (yes, it used stars for the last 2 letters).

  • We are very bad at multitasking.
    The only question that is important, is this: is that text message really more important than the life of some kids or even your own.

  • Why would anybody think it would be safer? The safety issue in texting is not the hands leaving the wheel (although that is problematic but a separate issue). The safety issue is driver distraction. If you are focused on what you are texting versus driving, then your inattention is what creating the safety issue.

    Similar studies have shown that talking on the cell phone hands free is also only marginally safer than holding it in your hand while talking. It's simple math - at 70 mph if you are distracted for

  • Look it up in the font of all wisdom: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mobile_phones_and_driving_safety [wikipedia.org] (referenced studies).

    People in general probably think handheld use is significantly more dangerous because legislators are not scientifically literate
    and pass half-measures legislation.

    Remember, common sense is neither common nor sensible. And 90% of conventional wisdom is wrong <= Including this.

  • The whole 'hands free' thing went through our company, and is still the safety policy - you may NOT talk on the phone while driving without a hands-free set.

    This is, simply, asinine.

    The point of distracted driving isn't (mostly) about what's in your HAND. It's about being...distracted, ie your mind on something other than driving.

    Not to mention, I can't count the number of times I've been in a salesman's car, his phone rings, and the dumb sunuvabitch starts rifling through his console trying to find the ha

    • Hands-free policies and laws have largely been put into place by people who don't want to be inconvenienced themselves, but want to be able to claim they did something about the problem.

  • From TFA:

    For the study, Yager recruited people who were familiar with sending and receiving texts, and some of them already were using voice-to-text applications.

    "One of the common comments was that they felt an inclination to look down at the screen to see if it heard them correctly, so that could be one possible explanation of why they were not looking at the roadway more frequently," Yager said.

    If only there existed some way to send voice messages directly. That way you wouldn't be distracted by hav

  • Seriously the chaos over this reminds me of in our town. Everyone is trying to squeeze onto the double-yellows (parking at the side of the road on areas where it's actually been marked as not permitted, which is typically a £60 fine if anyone ever checks) after 6pm on an evening when at that time it's well publicised that the car park a ~20 second walk away is FREE. Everyone is far too lazy and impatient. I get that things can be a bit of effort sometimes and that life can be a bit of a rush. But

    • by Cloud K (125581)

      Also, even with handsfree talking it's probably best to pull over. Watch anyone in charge of a supermarket trolley while talking on a phone. They can't even control that. Why are they in charge of a car?

  • ... especially with my voice activated dialing. A usual exchange:

    Me: "Call Beth Mobile."
    Phone: "Call Meg?"
    Me: "No"
    Phone: "Call Karen?"
    Me. "No!"
    Phone: "Call Susan?"
    Me: "NO! Who are these people? I don't even know a Meg, Karen, or Susan!"
    Phone: "Try again."
    Me (speaking slowly and over-enunciating): "C-A-L-L B-E-T-H M-O-B-I-L-E."
    Phone: "Text Virginia?"
    Me: "AAARRGGGHHH!!!!" (Picks up phone, switches to recently dialed numbers, and clicks my wife's entry.)

  • by pod (1103)

    Distracted driving is distracted driving. It is a pet peeve of mine that hand-held cellphones and texting is singled out, vilified and viciously punished, while other forms of distractions are entirely passed over. Talking on the phone, whether holding it up to your ear or not, is still talking on the phone, and equally distracting done either way.

    • by mjr167 (2477430)
      It is also pretty distracting to be fishing around the backseat for a stuffed bear that the 2 year threw on the floor and is now having a screaming fit cause she can't reach it and the world will absolutely positively end if she can't have it back. But we don't have metrics for that :)
  • ... it's more to do with the thinking about phrasing, verifying what was entered and visualising the recipient's reaction to the message than the data entry.

    While the user is focused on that, they are not scanning their surroundings properly and actually analyzing what their eyes are seeing.

    I see this sort of disconnect between vision and processing ALL THE TIME on my motorcycle at intersections. People looking at you, and processing you and registering you as "seen" are two ENTIRELY DIFFERENT things.

  • It would be more secure if speech recognition was almost error-free and the computer-human interaction more elaborate - e.g. including contextual clues about the driving situation. Basically, you'd need to be able to send a text message by mumbling "uhm, send a message to John whatever, you know, that I'll be late because of uhm traffic" where your phone might interrupt you at anytime and say "Hey, watch where you drive!"

    Technology is not yet that far but likely in 10-20 years. However, in my opinion any su

  • From TFS:

    '"One of the common comments was that they felt an inclination to look down at the screen to see if it heard them correctly, so that could be one possible explanation of why they were not looking at the roadway more frequently,"

    So voice texting (like all voice recongnition products I have ever come across) basically doesn't work very well despite the grandiose claims of the "we'll have real AI in 5 years time" fanatics?

    What a surprise.

  • by ledow (319597)

    Hang up the phone. Drive. 20 years ago you DID NOT HAVE THAT PHONE. What would you have done then? You'd have driven, and then called from your destination.

    There is NOTHING that urgent that you have to do it in the car and can't pull over. Especially not a phone call. CERTAINLY not a text.

    Drive the damn car, and enjoy the peace and quiet or some gentle music as you travel. Stop for people on crossings. Give that bike a bit of extra room to make his life easier. ANY and ALL "slowdowns" on your trave

  • is how many of these drivers were ghetto driving? How many thought they were being cool by stiff-arming the steering wheel or rolling their wrists over the top of the wheel?

    In addition to the obvious distraction of trying to follow a conversation on a cell phone while driving, or trying to text and drive, one needs to take into consideration the near complete lack of stability one has when ghetto driving.

    When you add in that factor, the danger factor increases tremendously.

Reference the NULL within NULL, it is the gateway to all wizardry.

Working...