Distracted While Driving? Blame Siri

A new study conducted by AAA has uncovered an alarming truth about the use of technology while driving a vehicle.

Many people know that driving while distracted can be dangerous, and many states have outlawed talking and texting while driving. In many states, however, the use of hands-free devices is perfectly legal. According to CBS, the AAA study sought to examine whether or not even the most advanced and up-to-date hands-free voice command systems can cause drivers to get distracted. The short answer is, yes.

The research for the study involved examining the level of distraction that drivers experienced when using hands-free or voice command features, and documents that level.

It probably comes as no surprise that, yes, drivers who use devices while driving — hands-free or not — do get distracted, but what the study found is that human error is not as much to blame for the distraction as the system misunderstanding the commands is.

The study ultimately concludes that the errors made by the hands-free systems are the greatest source of distractions. For example, one driver who was tested asked Apple’s Siri (which performs the commands voiced to her by a user) to call a restaurant.

When the driver asked Siri to call “Cafe Triol”, Siri answered, “Sorry, I didn’t get that. Please select a restaurant.” The driver was so distracted by Siri’s misunderstanding that she missed one of the prompts that was measuring her level of attention to the road.

The author of the study, David Strayer of the University of Utah told CBS, “In the situations where you have a system that’s very difficult to use, is extremely frustrating to use, then, yes, you’ll be paying attention to that and not paying attention to traffic lights and pedestrians and other cars.”

“Unfortunately, we see serious crashes caused by distracted driving all the time – both on the part of drivers and pedestrians. Not only do individuals become distracted by the operation of the device, they also can get distracted by the content of what is sent to them – text message, voice mail, internet search, etc. To protect all motorists and pedestrians on the roadways, we must continue to educate people as to the significant dangers associated with distracted driving,” says Kara Rakers, Attorney, Tapella & Eberspacher LLC.

Whether it’s a result of errors made by an electronic hands-free device or not, distracted driving can still have dire consequences. The majority of lawsuits in the U.S. are a result of traffic accidents. Additionally, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, an estimated 60,000 pedestrians were injured in just one year, and one is injured about every seven minutes.

Though a driver might be able to blame his or her distracted driving on Siri, the best thing to do is not use devices while driving at all — hands-free or otherwise.

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