Smartphone Voice Command Doesn’t Make You a Safer Driver, Study Shows

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety says even hands-free talking can be dangerously distracting. The American Automobile Association’s research arm has been collecting data on hands-free tech since 2013, and its latest findings show all of the systems it tested pose some degree of risk.


The foundation tested the systems in 10 vehicles using three different phone platforms. Drivers were least-distracted in the Chevy Equinox, which scored a cognitive distraction rating of 2.4 The Mazda 6 had the worst rating at 4.6. Anything above a score of two is considered “potentially dangerous.” Scores for the phone platforms were more consistent, with Google Now getting the best marks at 3.0, followed by Apple’s Siri at 3.4 and Microsoft’s Cortana at 3.8.

AAA says even moderate levels of distraction can pull your mind off the road for a significant amount of time. Your brain can be distracted for between 15 and 27 seconds after completing a task. At 40 kph, that translates into a length of about 270 metres, and when was the last time you saw a driver leave three football fields between cars, let alone one?

The foundation is worried about the technology creating a false sense of security behind the wheel. “The lasting effects of mental distraction pose a hidden and pervasive danger that would likely come as a surprise to most drivers,” CEO Peter Kissinger said in a statement. “The results indicate that motorists could miss stop signs, pedestrians, and other vehicles while the mind is readjusting to the task of driving.”

AAA’s findings are in-line with similar research from the popular TV duo, The Mythbusters. The pair ran small-scale testing earlier this year to investigate the difference between hands-free and hands-on phone usage while driving. They found no statisically-significant difference between the two and the vast majority of drivers failed the test regardless of the phone system used.

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