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Study: Those Hands-Free Systems in Your Car Can Be Dangerous

PHOTO: A recently released  study from AAA indicates that many of the new hands-free technology systems may be much more distracting than most drivers think they are. (Photo courtesy of AAA)
PHOTO: A recently released study from AAA indicates that many of the new hands-free technology systems may be much more distracting than most drivers think they are. (Photo courtesy of AAA)
October 20, 2014

MADISON, Wis. – A recently released study from the American Automobile Association (AAA) shows three out of four drivers believe hands-free technology in their car is safe to use, but that may not always be the case.

Nick Jarmusz, public affairs director for AAA-Wisconsin, says a study was just done to see if drivers are distracted by this newer technology.

"With this latest study, what we've done is compare the actual systems that are on the market today against each other and try and also pinpoint what about those systems makes them more or less safe so that we can figure out how to get to a system that is safer," he explains.

Distraction is a main concern, and Jarmusz says the study involved three levels – visual distraction, where the driver's eyes are off the road; manual distraction, where the driver's hand is off the wheel; and cognitive distraction, like reading or sending a text with an onboard hands-free device.

"Of these three, the cognitive is really the most dangerous and these hands-free technologies still leave you engaging in a cognitive distraction even though they let you keep your hands on the wheel and eyes on the road," Jarmusz points out.

The study categorized listening to the radio as a level one distraction, talking on a cell phone as a level two distraction, and using a speech-to-text system to listen to or compose texts or emails was ranked a level three distraction.

Jarmusz says only one hands-free and eyes-free system – Apple's Siri – generated a level four distraction.

According to Jarmusz, even though drivers may think these new systems are safe to use while driving, they may not be.

"If you're doing something that has to do with the task of driving, whether it's navigating or controlling the systems of your vehicle, that's one thing, but if you're going to be using them to compose or listen to messages or place phone calls you really should pull off the side of the road in order to do that," he stresses.

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI