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Yesterday, I spoke to a great group of students at a Beaverton, Oregon high school about distracted driving. As part of the presentation (if you don’t know about this, you should –, we talk about three different types of distraction: manual, visual and cognitive.

Texting while driving is such a dangerous habit because your hand isn’t steering the car (manual), your eyes aren’t on the road (visual), and your mind is not focused on driving (cognitive).

Apps like Siri and Vlingo are based on the idea that dictating instead of typing messages eliminates the distraction, and therefore the danger, of texting while driving a car.

But they don’t work.

In the first study to compare voice-to-text with regular type texting, the Texas A&M Transportation Institute evaluated real drivers in real vehicles on a closed course.

Each driver navigated the course 4 times: once without using a phone, twice using different voice-to-text apps, and once more while texting manually. The results:

  • It took drivers twice as long to react to dangers like swerving cars and pedestrians in the street – no matter how they were texting.
  • Drivers still looked away from the road, even though the voice texting apps were hands-free, and didn’t have visual cues.
  • Drivers felt safer when voice-texting then type-texting, even though there was no difference in their driving.

Voice texting makes drivers feel safe, but it’s actually as dangerous as regular texting. This study proves what the students I talked to yesterday already know: the only way to prevent your phone from distracting you is to turn it off when you’re in the car.


  1. Gravatar for John Hopkins

    Tom: You could not be more correct. In fact, as you point out, voice to text actually adds steps to the process and interferes with the focus required for driving.

  2. Gravatar for Tom D'Amore

    Thanks for your comment, John. Like many, I want to see a solution to the problem of distracted driving - but I don't think this is it.

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