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Cellphones Handhelds Transportation

Studies Conclude Hands-Free-calling and Apple Siri Distract Drivers 208

New submitter operator_error writes with a story at the L.A. Times that echoes some previous research on the relative risks of hand-held vs. hands-free phones by drivers, and comes to an even grimmer conclusion: In many cars, making a hands-free phone call can be more distracting than picking up your phone, according to a new study from AAA and the University of Utah. In-dash phone systems are overly complicated and prone to errors, the study found, and the same is true for voice-activated functions for music and navigation. A companion study also found that trying to use Siri — the voice control system on Apple phones — while driving was dangerously distracting. Two participants in the study had virtual crashes in an automotive simulator while attempting to use Siri, the study's authors reported. In response, Toyota said the study did not show a link between cognitive distraction and car crashes. "The results actually tell us very little about the relative benefits of in-vehicle versus hand-held systems; or about the relationship between cognitive load and crash risks," said Mike Michels, a Toyota spokesman. Meanwhile, many states treat hand-held devices very differently from hands-free ones; in New York, for instance, both texting and talking on a hand-held mobile phone are put in the same category, while talking on a hands-free device is covered only by more general distracted driving laws. If the Utah study is correct, maybe that's backwards. (And some evidence suggests that phone use in cars is not quite the straightforward danger that it's sometimes presented as, despite the correlation of phone use with accidents.)
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Studies Conclude Hands-Free-calling and Apple Siri Distract Drivers

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  • So.. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by rockabilly ( 468561 ) on Tuesday October 07, 2014 @10:06AM (#48082677)

    With this revelation will the government allow phone use now?

    • Re:So.. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Mr D from 63 ( 3395377 ) on Tuesday October 07, 2014 @10:30AM (#48082877)
      I've not gone back to the actual test report, and its not stated in the article, but I wonder if the test subjects were already familiar with the technologies before being tested. If you get in an unfamiliar vehicle, even finding the windshield wiper can be a big distraction. If these subjects are first time or inexperienced users, you can bet they are distracted. Do a test with folks that regularly use the technology and have developed as ease with the interfaces, and then see what the differences are.
      • Indeed. I didn't read the article but I did hear about it on the radio driving into work (yes, radio). Driving is chocked full of little distractions, but what the interviewer said was that the digital control on the dash is even more distractive than a phone. I can relate to that - I drove a 2014 rental with one of those. I was a major distraction, and also a pain in the ass. I like my manual controls thank you.

        • Its a crap shoot. I just drove a rental this weekend with a touch screen interface. I had my music on USB and I found it quite a bit easier than normal to navigate my music. However, adjusting the freakin air temperature was an adventure.

          I once had a rental in Germany and accidentally hit a button. The car kept asking me a question in German and I had no clue what to say or do. Eventually, I hit the right button to stop the inquisition.
          • by gmhowell ( 26755 )

            I once had a rental in Germany and accidentally hit a button. The car kept asking me a question in German and I had no clue what to say or do. Eventually, I hit the right button to stop the inquisition.

            I didn't expect this inquisition just from driving a car...

          • Its a crap shoot. I just drove a rental this weekend with a touch screen interface. I had my music on USB and I found it quite a bit easier than normal to navigate my music. However, adjusting the freakin air temperature was an adventure.

            I once had a rental in Germany and accidentally hit a button. The car kept asking me a question in German and I had no clue what to say or do. Eventually, I hit the right button to stop the inquisition.

            You couldn't have swapped in Spain for Germany? No one would have fucking known. What a missed opportunity.

      • Like a 16 yr old driver trying to figure out the radio in a new car.

      • by Cabriel ( 803429 )

        Really, the study doesn't imply that using hands-free is worse. It actually implies that bad user-interfaces are worse. How does the distraction hold up once the call has been connected and the conversation has started?

    • by popo ( 107611 ) on Tuesday October 07, 2014 @10:43AM (#48083023) Homepage

      Because I'm pretty sure that talking to one's significant other is equally distracting.

    • No.

      In California when they first passed the hands free laws they actually used a study that said that hands free was just as bad as holding the phone as justification for the law.

      The problem in the US is that the politicians have figured out just how truly stupid and lazy the majority of people are and are using that to their advantage.

      • by PRMan ( 959735 )
        I'm wondering about touchscreens. On my Acura, if I wanted to do virtually anything on the car, I could just touch a single button or the screen. On my new car, I have to navigate through pages of menus using a rotator knob. Somehow, this is considered "safer" than just touching a screen. I'm at a total loss to understand this.
  • Driverless Car (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 07, 2014 @10:08AM (#48082699)

    It's pretty funny that this article is right on top of the driverless city they're building in Michigan.
    Please make autonomous cars a reality so we can finally stop having careless drivers on the road killing 40 000 in the USA alone every year.

  • by cjonslashdot ( 904508 ) on Tuesday October 07, 2014 @10:15AM (#48082737)
    And I would rather be a tiny bit distracted, at a safe moment when I make sure that I have plenty of car lengths in front of me, than be lost, wandering around trying to find my way. The maps application is one of the best driving innovations every. And Siri is fantastic, in that you don't have to fiddle with an address book on your car's console - you just say, "Call Joe". To me, it _enhances_ safety. And for those who think that I should not talk and drive, then remember the times that you were running late, and felt the need to rush, whereas by calling someone and saying you are a little bit late, you remove the pressure and you can slow down.
    • by Morpeth ( 577066 )

      Point is this -- you don't truly NEED to call Joe do you, do you? No. The only call you ever might NEED to make is a 911 call.

      And that's the problem, using running late, or I 'really need to call so and so', or not knowing where you're going as an excuse for being distracted, and putting the rest of us at risk.

      I drive my young daughter to school every morning (and I live in city with a lot of traffic/gridlock), and it pisses me off to no fucking end the number of people fucking around with their phone for s

      • I am not like those people who talk on their phone all the time, including when they are picking up their kids. I am on my cellphone rarely, but when I do use it, it is really beneficial, and I am very careful. I tend to agree with you that many people are not so careful and they use it too much behind the wheel. In the morning I see so many people chatting on their phones while driving. I think that since their risky driving puts us all at risk, it might be better to limit cellphone use while driving, but
  • by daveschroeder ( 516195 ) * on Tuesday October 07, 2014 @10:22AM (#48082797)

    ...and so do kids, passengers, arguments, the radio, the A/C controls, and anything else that takes your visual or mental attention away from the road in front of you.

    This is surprising, how, exactly? Siri and similar are a hell of a lot better than texting and otherwise using your smart device in the normal, "non voice controlled" way.

  • by YrWrstNtmr ( 564987 ) on Tuesday October 07, 2014 @10:25AM (#48082829)
    ....who has been on the receiving end of a crash with a phone involved driver....hang up and drive.

    There is nothing so important that you cannot pull over and call/text. Nothing. Period.

    In my case, she had a full 10 seconds of red light before impact. 10 seconds at 60mph = almost 3 football fields of not looking out the window.
    Hanging upside down from the seatbelt, covered in broken glass, was not how I expected to spend my lunch hour.

    Drive the damn car. Talk later.
    • Was eating upside down difficult? We were doing that as kids when we were playing astronauts. ;-)
    • by OzPeter ( 195038 )

      In my case, she had a full 10 seconds of red light before impact.

      Sorry for you accident.

      But to go off on a tangent/rant, its a regular occurrence (easily 3 or 4 times year) for me to be facing a green light and have someone come through against the red. Yet I never see any of those people on the phone .. they are just really really bad drivers and are accidents waiting to happen.

      To me the obvious solution is red light cameras that can deliver some feedback to such idiots by slapping them with a fine before they hit someone. And while I am well aware of the "red-light-

      • A couple of seconds of red light? Sure, I've seen that too.
        A full 10 seconds of facing a red light? Far more rare, absent full distraction from something. In this case, it was known and admitted that it was the phone/texting.

        Red light cameras are, in theory, a good idea. But it always gets screwed up between the politician and the company supplying it.
        Ticket revenue split between the city and the camera company. So the controlling parties adjust the settings to provide 'more revenue'....more tickets. Not
        • by OzPeter ( 195038 )

          A couple of seconds of red light? Sure, I've seen that too.

          Thats my point. That should be the rare event, not the common event. Ideally 10 seconds should be nonexistent. But with no feedback loop controlling bad drivers, the "couple or seconds" gets accepted as the norm.

          • Right. If you observe any moderately busy intersection, every light change you will see a couple of people sneak through after the red. Idiots. But slow speed idiots.
            But 10 seconds later at 60MPH? Not unless they were actually asleep or totally distracted.

            In this persons case, it was already illegal for her to be on the phone, either talking or texting. In my state, it is/was illegal to use any communication device if you are under 18. So 'a law' or red light camera would have made no difference, because s
            • by OzPeter ( 195038 )

              It was a usual, every day thing to do.

              You just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and ended her lucky streak. I posit that that particular red light was not the first one that she had run, and that red light cameras could have caught her actions sooner and punished just her and not you. On the other hand they would have done nothing if it was a first the offense for her. But on the third hand .. if it was well known in the first place that you get severely punished for running red lights and you will be caught, then there w

      • by jabuzz ( 182671 )

        My only beef with red light cameras is the only driving offence I have is going though a red light so an ambulance barrelling down the road behind me with blues and twos going would not have too slow down ended up with me having a fine and points on my license. Won't be doing that again.

    • by geekoid ( 135745 )

      Yes, that never, ever, happened before cell phones.

    • by Ichijo ( 607641 )

      There is nothing so important that you cannot pull over and call/text. Nothing. Period.

      That's illegal on freeways where pulling over is only allowed for emergencies.

  • These kinds of things won't be fixed until they start selling driver-less cars.

    People that are terrified of Ebola, terrorists, vaccines, etc. will quite willingly smoke, drive distracted, and cross subway tracks.

  • by technomom ( 444378 ) on Tuesday October 07, 2014 @10:32AM (#48082899)
    I wonder how much of this is distraction and how much of this is driver rage at Siri not understanding what the driver is asking or responding, as it does in most cases, with "Sorry, I can't do that".
  • "noting that the research did not document that cognitive distraction leads to crashes. Conversely, physical activities, such as reaching for a phone, texting or reading emails while driving do create distractions that cause collisions."

    Why can't anybody do a good study on this? must studies start based on a study that came to it's numbers just by assumption, not actual data.
    Other studies don't take into account what is too much distraction., just that there was a distraction.
    They don't take into account ho

  • Is anyone else irritated by an explicit link to the beta site in this summary? You can edit '' to be just '' and they do still offer the link back to the real site once you get there, but it's still annoying.

    Maybe the solution is "just don't click on links while on Slashdot." That's a grand old tradition here anyway, I guess.

  • Siri, as usual was giving me confusing and last second directions saying "Turn Left", in a very confusing series of intersections in Oakland where it looked like she was wrong (and was of course). However, while looking around trying to read street signs, the light turned red just as I got to the intersection, and I was still at about 40mph, after having just got off the Freeway. So, I figured it would be safer to run the light than slam on the brakes and risk stopping in the middle of the intersection.
  • To be fair, conducting a study about distracted driving in Utah is like hosting a philosophical debate in the mosh pit of a Gwar concert. It can be done, but the noise is going to be overwhelming.

    I lived and drove there for ten years, which taught me fear as I have never known. Utah drivers don't need any help being terrible, but they welcome it anyway.

  • I didn't see any mention of Cortana or Google Now. Doesn't seem like a very good study if it excludes those. As a consumer, I'd like to know if any voice recognition performed a lot better during driving than the others. Also, I wonder how distracted they were having gear strapped to their heads []?
  • by TigerPlish ( 174064 ) on Tuesday October 07, 2014 @11:21AM (#48083361)

    I've had two "love taps" from behind, one by a tailgater in dense traffic, one by a lady putting on makeup while driving.

    Then I got rear-ended by some punk teen in his hopped-up Tacoma with a big tacky add-on tach, gauges on the a-pillar, etc. That impact lifted the rear of my Miata and twisted her lengthwise. Instant kill. I was ok, the car died protecting me. It was a fun 10 years that I had that car, and I still miss her.

    So now, whenever I stop at a light or stopsign, or when in traffic which is slowing down, I keep an eye on the rear view mirror. If I see an approaching car and I think they're not stopping -- or if I actually *see* them working the phone, I flash my brakelights and honk the horn lots. Saved me already once, for-sure. Guy looks up and the nose went down, he was hard on the brakes. Then he looks up, as if saying "What?!"

    • by OzPeter ( 195038 )

      So now, whenever I stop at a light or stopsign, or when in traffic which is slowing down, I keep an eye on the rear view mirror.

      That wouldn't have worked in my case. I stopped in traffic, the car behind me stopped, the car behind them stopped (and that car had a trailer) . Then a fourth car rear-ended the car with the trailer, who was pushed into the next car, which was pushed into me. That impact broke my rear axle and put my car off the road. My only saving grace was that I had left enough room ahead of me so that I wasn't pushed into the car ahead of me.

      But yeah .. keeping an eye out behind you and leaving an escape route in

      • You're the only other person I've heard of that does this. I would like to think it's more widespread than I think -- but I fear it isn't widespread at all.

        People look at me weird when I tell them that I do this.

        • by OzPeter ( 195038 )

          You're the only other person I've heard of that does this.

          I think it comes from having ridden motorcycles and knowing that certain death was only moments away unless I was fully aware of my surroundings and in control of my actions.

          For example I also don't trust mirrors and turn my head to look where I am about to change lanes to.

      • by PRMan ( 959735 )

        I was on vacation and the idiot in front of me decides to stop in the middle of a highway and do a u-turn to go back to the previous town. I slammed on the brakes hard as did the person behind me. I could see that the person behind THEM was not going to stop. The instant they hit I edged forward as close to idiot's bumper as I could without hitting him. I escaped the crash by an inch.

        You absolutely should watch for people behind you who aren't going to stop and take any evasive maneuvers that you can.

  • At first I thought, "No way! My hands-free function on my car is great, and far less distracting." Then I remember the frustrations I had when I first started using it. This is an example of the type of "conversation" I would have:

    Car: "Voice command please."
    Me:"Call Marty Klugman"
    Car: "Calling Mary Kliegleman. Say yes or no."
    Car: "Voice command please"
    Me:"Call Mar-ty Klug-man!"
    Car: "Calling Harry Chelphon. Say yes or no"
    Me:"NO!" ...etc, etc, etc
    The next thing I know I'm arguing; YELLING at my Ca

  • I think BMW does it right. You hold a steering wheel button down for a moment and you have Siri with most functionality except things blocked during driving mode. Texting, Calls, appointments, notes, and music all work nicely. It's awesome, easy, and works.

    The BMW speech recognition for the vehicle's functions works really well too. If you're busy you also have a live concierge to help with almost anything.

    BMW's iDrive is amazing, it's engineered so that you rarely have to take your eyes off the ro
    • by Lumpy ( 12016 )

      the JVC aftermarket stereo in my wifes car works just like this. Except you press and hold the mute button on the steering wheel.

  • Current ios version with siri plugged into a charger. "hey siri, call home" works perfectly and I dont have to touch it.

    What did they use? an iphone 3S for their study? I have more of an argument with my HTC ONE M8 trying to get freaking voice dialing to work. Android has utter crap for it's dialing capabilities and needs to be updated.

    yes I carry and daily use an M8 and a 5C, so I know more about this than 90% of you.

  • Has anyone made a study of how much mobile usage in a car does NOT result in crashes?

    I can guarantee that 100% of crashes involved oxygen, so we really must ban oxygen use in cars.

    It should be pretty obvious that another missing, presumed unconsidered, dimension is people's ability to choose when they might reasonably use a mobile device whilst driving, and for how long.

  • Put someone in a driving simulator and have them do something that might distract them. Does that make sense?

    Put ME in a driving simulator and I'm already distracted. This isn't my car. The instruments aren't in the right places. It's confusing! And now you hand me a complicated device to use while 'driving'?

    I had a bit of distraction the first few times I used the bluetooth system in my car. It could have been dangerous. The microphone was in the ceiling and the incoming via the radio, controls on the stee

  • I find it interesting that the article mentions three kind of distraction; cognitive distraction, visual distraction and physical distraction yet only measures cognitive distraction. I would think that the sum of all three distraction modes would be the definitive indicator as to what whether hand held or hands free is better. For example, I bet hand held has much higher visual and physical distraction numbers than hands free.

    Yet another study to prove a theory rather than do a complete test.

  • That pilots aren't distracted while communicating to ground controllers or flight deck crews? Are drivers similarly distracted by conversations with passengers?

    I sense something amiss here

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