The AAA Foundation for Traffic safety has released a new study stating that drivers can be mentally distracted for up to 27 seconds after using voice commands to change music, read a text, or dial a number.
The study was conducted at a max speed of 25 mph, where drivers travelled nearly three football fields in length. During this time, drivers performed tasks using voice commands. Less distracting systems left drivers distracted for up to 15 seconds, while more involved systems increased that time.
“Drivers should use caution while using voice-activated systems, even at seemingly safe moments when there is a lull in traffic or the car is stopped at an intersection,” said Beth Mosher, director of public affairs for AAA Chicago, in a statement. “The reality is that mental distractions persist and can affect driver attention even after the light turns green.”
While mental distraction was tested, AAA also tested specific voice command platforms. Mental distraction was rated on a five-point scale, with anything rated 2 or above considered potentially dangerous by the organization.
Using this system of measurement, the study found the Chevrolet Equinox to be the best-performing system with a rating of 2.4, while the Mazda 6 scored the worst at 4.6. For phone systems, Google Now performed better than both Apple Siri and Microsoft Cortana with a score of 3.0, while the other two received scores of 3.4 and 3.8, respectively.
AAA has used these findings to continue talks with safety advocates, manufacturers, and policymakers to improve the safety of future technology and vehicles. Mosher went on to conclude: “The massive increase in voice-activated technologies in cars and phones represents a growing safety problem for drivers. We are concerned that these new systems may invite driver distraction, even as overwhelming scientific evidence concludes that hands-free is not risk free.”