Texting Ban- Behind on the Times?

In 2009, North Carolina joined 41 states in the effort to ban texting while driving. But some believe that this effort is already behind the times. Nearly every smart phone is now accompanied by some form of voice activation program, like Apple’s Siri. These programs allow users to dictate text messages, search for pizza, or make calls without ever looking at the screen. Furthering the hands-free fad, most cars now come with features like Bluetooth which wirelessly links smart phones to car stereos.  This makes it easier for drivers to talk on the phone and listen to text messages, all while keeping their hands free to drive.

While this appears to be the direction the tech and auto industries are moving, a study conducted by the American Automobile Association Foundation of Traffic Safety (AAA) has found that such hands-free features have the potential to be even more dangerous than making hand held calls. According to their report, drivers who use their vehicles built in Bluetooth devices were more distracted than when talking with a passenger, listening to music, or making a hand held phone call. The group noted that the action of talking through the vehicle’s Bluetooth system increased the mental workload and cognitive distractions in drivers.

Recently, automakers have begun integrating other voice activated features in automobiles. These infotainment systems, located in the dashboard, allow drivers to use voice commands to turn on windshield wipers, order pizza, and even post on Facebook. The AAA estimates that there are 9 million cars and trucks in America with such voice activation systems and estimates that this number will jump to 62 million by 2018.

Presently, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is reviewing the research recently released by the AAA and has yet to issue an official opinion on it.

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