Apple’s Siri Just As Risky As Texting and Driving

Siri behind the wheel is not any safer than texting and driving, according to a new study.

The study, from the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, looked at 43 participants driving a vehicle on a closed course while using some form of voice-to-text and manual texting on a handheld device. The study used Siri and Vlingo, two of the most popular handheld apps for Apple and Android products.

The study comes as large companies like Apple and Google are working to integrate their phones in new cars. Apple is working with several manufacturers on two assistants: "Eyes Free," which allows users to simply speak to their cars, with a special Siri button on the steering wheel; with "Hands Free," the iPhone screen stays off, so it will not distract the driver.

The study found driver reaction time was cut in half regardless of whether the subject was texting or using a voice-to-text device. Drivers also made less eye contact and took nearly the same amount of time to use the manual text option as the voice-to-text.  Interestingly, drivers felt safer with a Siri or Vlingo device than with a manual text device although driving performance was equally poor with all gadgets.

"Understanding the distracted driving issue is an evolving process, and this study is but one step in that process. We believe it's a useful step, and we're eager to see what other studies may find," Christine Yager, a TTI Associate Transportation Researcher who managed the study, said in a press release.

April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month. According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, a quarter of all motor vehicle crashes today involve cellphone use. More than 90 percent of drivers also think other drivers texting or using cellphones behind the wheel are a threat to their personal safety, yet two in three of them do it anyway.

"You're still using your mind to try to think of what you're trying to say, and that by proxy causes some driving impairment, and that decreases your response time," Yager told Reuters.

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