Hands-Free Communications Not So Safe For Drivers: Survey

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- If you think using your hands-free communication system keeps you from being a distracted driver - you better think again. According to a new survey from the AAA Foundation for Public Safety, these new technological features could actually "increase mental distraction."

The survey found Apple's (APPL) Siri registered a "relatively high" distraction rating compared to the built-in dashboard systems studied.

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To assess real-world impact, researchers from the University of Utah evaluated 167 drivers using the two most common voice-based interactions for drivers - changing radio stations and voice dialing - with the actual voice-activated systems found in six different automakers' vehicles.

The scale used for the tests included listening to the radio (category 1), talking on a hand-held or hands-free cell phone (category 2) and using an error-free, speech-to-text system to listen/compose emails or texts (category 3). The survey found that all of the systems tested increase the distractions an average driver has to deal with and that can increasing the chances of having an accident.

Of the built-in systems surveyed, Toyota's (TM) Entune system garnered the lowest cognitive distraction ranking (at 1.7) - which, researchers equate to being similar to listening to an audio book. Chevrolet's (GM) MyLink resulted in a high level of cognitive distraction with a rating of 3.7. Other systems tested included the Hyundai Blue Link (2.2), Chrysler's  (FIATY) Uconnect (2.7), Ford (F) SYNC with MyFord Touch (3.0) and the Mercedes COMAND (rating 3.1).

Overall, the survey found:

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