More and more automobile manufacturers are adding voice controls to their vehicles as standard equipment, but Oregon car injury lawyers are asking the question, “Are you really safer talking to your car than you are to, say, someone at the other end of a phone?”
According to some recently published statistics, the answer may very well be, “No, you are not!” While the car makers are equipping an astonishing 99 percent of 2012 vehicles with standard or optional Bluetooth connectivity for car phones, as well as a large number of voice-activated navigation systems, some safety experts believe car voice controls may be as distracting as using a cell phone.
Research in the area is sketchy at best, but some of the facts that cannot be denied include:
- Road crashes still claim an average of 33,000 lives on American roads every year. While this figure is thankfully declining, that number is still outrageously high, according to most car injury lawyers.
- Almost 10 percent of the total number of fatalities— about 3,000 in all—are attributed to distracted drivers.
- The National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) has issued guidelines regarding in-car technology as of February of this year. However, they have no plans to address voice controls in cars until at least 2014. In addition, the guidelines they did propose virtually mirror those recommended by the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers…ten years ago.
Voice Controls Raise Controversy
The car makers say that using voice controls actually reduces the chance of a driver becoming distracted. They also point out that voice controls allow a driver to keep both hands on the wheel.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has also admitted that both fatal crashes on fender benders are on the decline, and that they expected the opposite to be the case as more and more people started using phones while driving.
However, a University of Utah study suggests that hands on the wheel and eyes on the road don’t always help if the driver’s mind isn’t fully focused on what’s happening around him. Psychology professor David Strayer is carrying out research on driver distraction. The study was commissioned by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
One part of the study involved putting people in a traffic simulator. The results were surprising.
- The “drivers” were given the option of receiving e-mails and having them read to them, an option offered my many smart phones and cars.
- Even though the driver only had to use voice controls to ask for the e-mails to be read, without ever taking their eyes off the road or their hands off the wheel, the study still showed that their reaction times to brake lights ahead of them was significantly slower than those drivers who chose not to have the e-mails read to them.
- Even drivers listening to the radio and talking on cell phones reacted more quickly.
The NTSB says Ban Voice Controls
Though they are well aware of what they call the “gap in research” surrounding the use of voice controls in cars, the National Transportation Safety Board recommended last December that every state should ban the use of all mobile devices in cars. The only exceptions, according to their Chairperson, Deborah Hersman, should be in cases of emergency or navigation.
According to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Bryan Reimer, voice controls ultimately have promise, but he agrees with car injury lawyers that they are far from distraction free. Reimer is researching cognitive distraction in a study funded in part by Toyota.
Clearly, this is one area even the most objective of experts can’t agree on. Some say keeping both hands on the wheel and both eyes on the road is helping to bring down road fatalities. Others say that any distraction—including voice controls—that take a driver’s mind even slightly off fast-moving traffic, traffic control devices, pedestrians and other road users, can only be a negative thing.
Unfortunately, hundreds of road users in Oregon are killed every year; many of those as the result of a driver who wasn’t fully concentrating on the road ahead. Thousands more are seriously injured and have to bear the physical scars and financial burdens with them for years on end. Has something like this happened to you or a member of your family? If so, then don’t hesitate. Contact a team of outstanding, experienced and reliable Portland car injury lawyers. They will explain your rights and guide you through the sometimes complicated process of dealing with the insurance companies. They can also give you an expert opinion on whether or not you should proceed with a personal injury lawsuit, to hold the distracted driver who caused your accident responsible, and to get you the compensation you and your family deserve.