Most Nebraska residents are aware that engaging in texting or other complex phone operations can reduce one’s ability to safely operate a motor vehicle. When a driver is attempting to juggle monitoring traffic conditions, operating their car and shifting focus from the road to a small handheld device, the chances of becoming involved in a serious accident with injuries are much higher than a driver who is focused solely on the road. In response, automotive manufacturers have put a great deal of funding and effort into designing an array of hands-free devices that are integrated into many new car models.

These technological innovations are intended to allow drivers to continue to use various forms of technology while driving, without requiring that they manually operate a device in order to do so. However, recent research suggests that it may not be the act of typing out a text message that creates the danger. Researchers believe that it is the mental effort of composing the communication, or processing the incoming data, that is to blame for serious auto accidents related to automotive travel.

Many parties, including AAA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, are asking automakers to reconsider adding voice-activated systems to newly manufactured vehicles. By allowing consumers to remain connected in the same way that they are at home or in the office, such innovations may be distracting drivers’ cognitive abilities, and rendering them unable to adequately respond to changing road conditions.

For Nebraska drivers, these changes mean that more and more people will be attempting to draft email, send text messages or access online content while on the road. Defensive driving and situational awareness remain the best means of protecting against a serious auto accident leading to injuries. Until and unless regulations are put into place to limit these types of technological innovations, awareness may be the best possible tool for preventing catastrophe.

Source: The New York Times, “Voice-Activated Technology Is Called Safety Risk for Drivers,” Matt Richtel and Bill Vlasic, June 12, 2013