Austin teens show danger of hands-free technology

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by KRIS BETTS / KVUE News and photojournalist DATHAN HULL

Bio | Email | Follow: @KrisB_KVUE

kvue.com

Posted on June 12, 2013 at 10:13 PM

Updated Thursday, Jun 13 at 7:46 AM

AUSTIN -- You’ve heard the warnings about talking and driving and texting and driving, but what about thinking and driving?

New car technology lets you do just that. With eyes on the road and hands on the wheel, all you have to do to send a text or even access Facebook is talk.

AUSTIN -- Hands-free technology has come along to help with the dangers of texting while driving - but the technology may not be that safe.

“Just because these newer cars are coming out with newer technology, it still could be dangerous,” said Doug Shupe with AAA Texas.

AAA released new research Wednesday that showed the results of studying driver’s brainwaves while using hands-free technology.

Researchers concluded these hands-free communication systems result in mental distraction, slowing brain function and reaction time.

To demonstrate, AAA asked young drivers in Austin to play a game Wednesday night.

The teens had to put a deck of cards in order, by suit, without distraction, and then once again as a parent asked them simple math questions.

The timed exercise “shows that their reaction time, their ability to get these cards in the same order, actually takes a lot longer” when distracted by questions, said Shupe.

Shupe said this game also demonstrates an important point: “It lets them think ‘can you think about two tasks at once?’ You may be able to, but can you do it safely?"

AAA expects voice-activated technology to increase five-fold by 2018. They hope drivers will use it only for basic functions, like turning on the windshield wipers or lights.

Their ultimate goal? To slow down and stop distracted driving as technology keeps speeding up.

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