New Study: Voice Texting and Traditional Texting Equally Distracting

By: Alicia Sparks May 21, 2013
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A recent study shows voice-to-text communication while driving is just as distracting as traditional texting.
Recent study shows voice-to-text communication while driving just as distracting as traditional texting.

With last month being Distracted Driving Awareness Month, the topic of driving while on a cell phone has people talking. In fact, the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) at Texas A&M University has released a new study comparing driver distraction levels during voice-to-text and traditional texting.

The study was pretty straightforward. Forty-three participants between the ages of 16 and 54 drove 30 mph along an 11-mile test track three times: once with no electronic devices, once while texting, and once while voice texting.

Researchers gauged the drivers’ distraction levels by recording how long it took the drivers to stop when they saw a flashing yellow light. Overall, drivers not texting responded within one or two seconds; it took drivers who were texting between three and four seconds to respond--more than enough time to fly through an actual traffic light or stop sign.

According to the study, texting drivers were 11 times more likely to miss the flashing light altogether, and some even swerved in their lanes or knocked over test barrels.


Traditional Texting vs. Voice Texting

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that voice-to-text causes as much distraction as traditional texting.

Although you might not physically type messages, even the most simplified form involves pulling up your smartphone’s voice texting application (which often involves one or two buttons), speaking the message, and making sure the message is correct.

So, even though it’s “voice-activated texting,” you’ll look at your phone several times. Checking that your message is correct will distract you, pressing send will distract you, and reading the response will--you guessed it--distract you.

Ways to Prevent Distracted Driving

According to the TTI’s Christine Yager, who headed the study, this most recent study stands apart from previous studies because the participants drove actual vehicles--not simulators.

So, the participants were sending and receiving text messages in the same kinds of cars we regular folk drive every day.

Oh, and we know it’s happening. Check out these stats:

  • One in five drivers admits to texting while driving (U.S. Transportation Department).
  • 35% of drivers admit to reading texts or email while driving (AAA).
  • 26% of drivers admit to typing texts or email while driving (AAA).

So, how can you help put an end to distracted driving? Well, it starts at home, as they say.

For example, put down your cell phone. If you can’t resist the temptation, just turn it off and toss it in the back seat. Don’t let your teen drivers text and drive, and if you’re a teen with a parent who likes to text on the road, remind them about the dangers (you might even recite your state’s safety laws on cell phone and driving--look at you, smarty pants).

The National Safety Council recommends focusing not only on yourself, but also on other drivers.

So, if you call or text someone and find out they’re driving, tell them you’ll catch up with them later.

Remember, there are other forms of distracted driving. Anything that forces you to multitask or divide your attention--such as dealing unrestrained pets, applying makeup, and eating--causes distracted driving.

Are you guilty of either form of texting and driving? Or are you an advocate for keeping the roads safe? Let us know your (un)distracted driving habits in the comments below!

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