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In car tech more distracting than it should be

Every aspect of daily life seems to be getting a technological makeover. From refrigerators that alert you when the milk is gone to cars that parallel park hands-free, high-tech gadgets are aimed at making life ultra easy. But what happens when easy becomes dangerous? As a new study shows some of the new high-tech hands-free systems used in cars are actually more distracting to drivers than they should be.

A study released by the University of Utah and the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety shows that in-car hands-free devices are not necessarily as distraction free and safe as consumers are led to believe.

According to the study voice activated systems such as Siri and Google Now can distract drivers for up to 27 seconds. For a car traveling at a speed of 25 miles an hour that is the distance of three football fields.

The models tested were all 2015s and came equipped with various hands-free systems. Of the 10 different cars and systems tested, three were given a distraction rating of moderate, six were rated as highly distracting and one, the Mazda 6 was rated as very highly distracting. An interesting finding of the study was the increase of distraction the systems caused as participants got older. For drivers 16 to 20 the distraction level for hands-free systems was less than it was for drivers ages 21 to 70.

Offering a hands-free system in new vehicles is a feature being marketed as a safer alternative to cellphone use while driving. And since cell phone use is the number one cause of distracted driving deaths in Utah, these hands-free options are very appealing to consumers. However, as this study shows even hands-free systems should be considered dangerously distracting.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, over 3,000 people are killed and another 400,000 injured annually because of distracted drivers. Even with hands-free devices a mainstay in new vehicles this number may not change. For individuals that have been impacted by a distracted driver, having good representation may help you put your life back together.

Source: The Salt Lake Tribune, "Voice-activated systems are dangerously distracting drivers, Utah researcher says," Annie Knox, Oct. 21, 2015

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