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Is Voice-to-Text Really Safer?

Car manufacturers and tech companies are struggling to stay ahead of the distracted driving curve. As they try to minimize distractions offered by technical advances in both cabin electronics and smart phones, one has to stop and wonder if all of these safety enhancements are actually helping.

Or not.

It has long been agreed that texting while driving is the most devastating distraction that exists. This action requires drivers to forfeit manual, cognitive and visual attention from the task at hand. One major improvement is voice-to-text. But is it actually safer?

One study sought to answer that very question. By placing drivers in a real car on a closed course, the study was the first of its kind. Previous research efforts had evaluated manual versus voice-activated texts in a simulated, virtual environment.

Each of the 43 participants navigated the course three times - once while only driving, once while manually texting and once while using a voice-to-text app. Findings from the study included:

  • Driver response times were significantly delayed no matter which texting method was used. In fact, drivers took about twice as long to react when they were texting.
  • For most tasks, manual texting required slightly less time than the voice-to-text method, but driver performance was roughly the same with both.
  • Drivers felt safer when using a voice-to-text app than while texting manually, even though driving performance suffered equally with both methods.

The challenge with driving distractions is that the vehicle operator always feels in control. He or she might think, "I can look away from the road while reading this text. It'll only be a second." In fact, it only takes a second or two of inattention to cause a devastating vehicle collision.

Various states have made certain driving distractions illegal. Voice-to-text is a electronic feature in some cars, and a downloadable app for many phones, that was designed to be legal and reduce driver distractions. Unfortunately, the act of voice-texting is still very disruptive and very dangerous.

If you were injured in a distracted driving accident, it is important that you discuss your situation with an experienced personal injury attorney.

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