If you think apps like Siri, which let you compose text messages using voice input, are a safe alternative to texting with your fingers then you’re probably mistaken. A recent study has found that using voice texting is far from a safe alternative.
The Texas A&M Transportation Institute conducted a test to compare voice texting with manual texting in a realistic driving environment. 43 participants were asked to drive one lap of a circuit without texting. They were then asked to complete the course three times or more while performing a series of texting exercises — one using Siri for the iPhone, one with Vlingo for Android and another using manual text input.
The researchers then measured the amount of time it took each driver to complete their texting and noted how long it took the drivers to respond to a light inside the car that was programmed to come on at random intervals.
The study found there was little, if any, difference between voice and manual texting. If anything, manual texting was found to be the faster method, though both voice and manual texting were found to affect driver performance to the same degree.
Worryingly, no matter how they texted, drivers’ eyes were found to be focussed on the road far less often than when not texting at all. Both voice and manual input methods were found to affect drivers’ reaction times, with those taking part in the study taking twice as long to react to the dashboard light.
Christine Yager, associate transportation researcher at Texas A&M Transportation Institute, explained the dangers: “If a driver who is texting is watching the road less often and their reaction times are slower, then that driver is less able to respond to a sudden roadway danger like a swerving vehicle or a pedestrian in the street.”
Of the two texting methods, drivers admitted they felt safer using voice-to-text even though it affected their driving performance in much the same way.
The results could, of course, be skewed by the fact voice input methods are usually quite inaccurate, particularly if you speak anything but BBC English, and especially if the cabin of your car generates quite a bit of background noise
But you shouldn’t need a study to tell you that, when driving, you’re better off avoiding doing anything isn’t turning the wheel or using the pedals. If you do need to send a message, pull over or wait until you get to your destination, or there could be fatal consequences.