SALT LAKE CITY — Drivers may think using voice-to-text technology is safer than manual text messaging, but a new study indicates it's not.
A study by the Texas Transportation Institute at Texas A&M University was the first to compare the two in an actual driving environment.
In the study, researchers had 43 people drive on a closed course, first without the use of any device. Then, participants drove the same course using traditional texting and again using voice-to-text.
Researchers measured the time it took each driver to complete the tasks. They also noted how long it took for drivers to respond to a light that came on at random intervals during the exercises.
Results of the study found that no matter which method a driver used to text, it took them twice as long to react as they did when they weren’t distracted.
“Anything that takes attention away from the mission at hand, that is your driving, is a potentially dangerous situation,” said Dwayne Baird, spokesman for the Utah Department of Public Safety.
The study also found the amount of time that drivers spent looking at the roadway ahead was significantly less when they were texting, no matter which method was used.
“If you say it (through voice text), then you have to read it to make sure it’s correct,” Baird said. “It doubles your efforts and it also doubles your distraction.”
The study found that manual texting was a little faster than voice-to-text, but driver performance was roughly the same with both.
Robert Hull, UDOT traffic and safety director, said driving safely can be a challenge, even when drivers pay attention to the road. There are all types of distractions on the roadways, and adding distractions inside the car — such as texting or eating — is an issue.
The National Safety Council estimates that 1.4 million crashes each year involve drivers using cellphones and a minimum of 200,000 additional crashes each year involve drivers who are texting.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, a person is 23 times more likely to crash if they text while driving.