In-Car Infotainment Distracts You for Up to 27 Seconds

Research finds issuing voice commands can be distracting, deadly
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 22, 2015 3:29 PM CDT
In-Car Infotainment Distracts You for Up to 27 Seconds
Car infotainment systems that use voice commands may let drivers keep their hands on the wheel, but they’re still highly distracting, according to two new studies released Thursday.   (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File)

Think it's safe to use a voice-activated in-car system to call your friend Dave or play the new Taylor Swift single? Think again. In two studies published Thursday, researchers found it can take nearly half a minute to regain full focus on the road after giving voice commands to in-car "infotainment" systems or smartphones, according to a University of Utah press release. "They are very distracting, very error prone, and very frustrating to use," lead researcher David Strayer says. "Far too many people are dying because of distraction on the roadway, and putting another source of distraction at the fingertips of drivers is not a good idea." The New York Times reports the studies looked at more than 300 drivers behind the wheels of 10 new vehicles.

According to the University of Utah, drivers remained distracted for between 15 and 27 seconds after issuing voice commands to dial phone numbers, send texts, change music, and more. Researchers say that's "a surprisingly long time," and CBS News points out 27 seconds is enough time for someone driving 25mph to travel the length of three football fields before fully returning his attention to the road. Safety advocates say carmakers are pushing voice-activated systems because they're profitable, not because they're actually safe to use while driving, the Times reports. According to the University of Utah, more than 3,000 people died due to driver distraction in 2013. "We now are trying to entertain the driver rather than keep the driver's attention on the road," one researcher says. (Distracted drivers keep hitting Google's self-driving cars.)

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