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Hands-free texting while driving results in 'extensive risk,' new U. study finds

Published: Wednesday, June 12 2013 4:00 a.m. MDT

"There is a looming public safety crisis ahead with the future proliferation of these in-vehicle technologies," AAA President and CEO Robert L. Darbelnet said in a prepared statement "It's time to consider limiting new and potentially dangerous mental distractions built into cars, particularly with the common public misperception that hands-free means risk-free."

Strayer said part of the misperception of safety is due to increased availability of infotainment systems in vehicles. He said some vehicle owners and drivers likely assume that because the hands-free technology is offered in a new vehicle, it represents a safe alternative to a hand-held device that has been vetted by the manufacturer.

"The average consumer might be led astray by false assumptions," he said.

In a statement accompanying the release of the study, AAA officials suggested that partners in the automotive and electronics industries look into limiting the use of voice-activated technology to driving-related activities like air conditioning and heating, windshield wipers or cruise control.

They also suggested that certain voice-to-text programs, such as those used in social media applications, email and text messaging, be disabled while a vehicle is in motion.

"This study constitutes the most in-depth analysis to date of mental distractions behind the wheel," Darbelnet said in a prepared statement. "AAA is hopeful that it will serve as a stepping stone toward working in collaboration with auto makers to promote our shared goal of improving safety for all drivers."

In Utah, it is illegal for a driver to text or email while driving.

A new law that went into effect last month bars school-age drivers from all cellphone use while driving, except in cases of emergency or when communicating with parents.

Email: benwood@deseretnews.com

Twitter: bjaminwood

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