Research from AAA revealed on Thursday that voice-activated technology in vehicles can be dangerously distracting and it doesn't end there.
The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety said that the distraction from using hands-free technology could linger for almost 30 seconds after tasks like changing music or sending texts are complete.
“This should be a wakeup call to anyone who feels safe texting while sitting at a red light,” said Amy Parmenter, an AAA spokesperson. “Just because you can hit the gas when the light turns green, doesn’t mean you’re good to go.”
The AAA study looked at different “push-to-talk” technologies in 2015 model year vehicles and found that potentially unsafe levels of mental distraction can last for as long as 27 seconds after completing a task in the worst performing systems.
At speeds of 25 mph, drivers traveled the length of nearly three football fields during that time.
Using the least distracting systems, drivers still remained impaired for more than 15 seconds.
Researchers said they found that all the systems they studied increased mental distraction to potentially unsafe levels.
They rated driver distraction on a scale of 1 to 5.
The Mazda 6 system had, by far, the highest distraction rating with a 4.6. The lowest on the list, but still considered “moderate” was the Chevy Equinox system at a 2.4.
Researchers also tested smartphone technology and found that Google Now outperformed Apple Siri and Microsoft Cortana. However, all three were still found to be dangerously distracting with ratings of 3.1, 3.4 and 3.8 respectively.
“Automakers often promote everything their connected cars can do, but this research paints a frightening picture of what drivers can’t do if they use the popular features,” Parmenter said. “Hands-free does not mean risk-free. It’s that simple.”
AAA said a total of 257 drivers ranging in age from 21 to 70 participated in the vehicle study. An additional 64 drivers ages 21 to 68 tests the phone systems.
More information about the study can be found here.
Students in Portland received a taste of hand-held distracted driving on Thursday morning.
Through a nationally recognized program called “Save a Life Tour,” students at Portland High School took on various simulations of distracted driving.
The program is funded by the state’s Department of Transportation.
Following a school-wide assembly about the issue, students said they had a chance to try their hand behind the wheel while ready and writing text messages.
"It's definitely hard, especially being a teenager," said Ruth Kelley, a Portland High School senior. "You know like you just you know want to talk to your friends and stuff, but definitely safety comes first."
That was the message Portland High School tried to send to its 350 students.
"I also remind them that I'm out on the roads," said Cindy Laverty, health teacher, Portland High School. "My kids are in the car with me. You just got to be careful."
Some students told Eyewitness News that it really drove home the dangers of distracted driving.
“It definitely taught us a lot of lessons that, not only it affects the people who hurt or even kill people, but it also affects those like the family members and friends of everyone around you,” Kelley said. “It's not just a text. It's way more than that."
Students also said that while they've always known about the risk, Thursday's lesson coupled with stories of tragedy will make them think twice.
"I think that definitely touches more of an emotional side of people more than just informing people not to text and drive," said Daniel DeBarge, a senior.
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