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AAA Says Hands Free Texting is Not as Safe as We Think

According to a new AAA study, hands free texting and emailing may be just as or even more dangerous than using hand held mobile devices while driving. According to the group, study results were based on brainwaves, eye movements and overall driving performances of 32 University of Utah students who performed different tasks such as sending emails and texting while driving.

According to AAA, using hands free devices to send emails and text messages are among the most dangerous distractions for a driver.

“It’s a widely held misconception that people believe if their eyes are on the road and their hands are on the wheel that they’re actually safer,” said Yolanda Cade, spokeswoman for AAA, to CBS News.

Automakers are trying to spur excitement, particularly in young drivers, over new dashboard infotainment systems that allow drivers to control their windshield wipers, order pizza and even post Facebook messages via voice controls. So far, there are approximately 9 million cars and trucks on the road with these systems. Some 62 million vehicles are expected to be equipped with the new infotainment systems by 2018.

The new systems have been welcomed by the auto industry and by drivers, since using hands free devices are believed to be so much safer than hands-on mobile devices.

But, according to AAA, that is a misconception. According to the group’s study findings, the greater the concentration required to perform a task (with or without hands), the more likely the driver is to drift into auto pilot mode and stop paying attention to things around them.

“People aren’t seeing what they need to see to drive. That’s the scariest part to me,” said Peter Kissinger, president and CEO of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, the group’s safety research arm. “Police accident investigative reports are filled with comments like the ‘looked, but did not see.’ That’s what drivers tell them. We used to think they were lying, but now we know that’s actually true.”

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