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Hands-free technology doesn't make driving safer, study finds

Hands-free is not risk free. That's the message from AAA.

The auto club is releasing what it calls a groundbreaking study on distracted driving. AAA along with the University of Utah found voice-activated, hands-free technologies on cell phones and in cars pose the greatest risks for distracted driving accidents.

“The risk is extensive,” says AAA spokesperson Cheryl Parker. “If you have these voice activated, in-car technologies, don’t use them unless you’re safely parked.”

Parker says even though voice-to-text and voice-activated technologies are designed to be safer, the reality is using them requires more brain function.

“There’s an increase in this technology all in the name of safety. To have people use this hands-free technology, voice-to-text, (to) check your email, check your social media. And, in fact, the unintended consequence is it’s putting drivers at risk,” says Parker.

The study found listening to the radio or audio books caused minimal risk. Talking on the phone - hands free or handheld - is labeled a moderate but significant risk.

Parker says conversations have already begun with car and cell phone manufacturers so they can look at what they're developing and hopefully, she says, make them safer.

A follow up study is also in the works.

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Senior Editor and reporter at WVXU with more than 20 years experience in public radio; formerly news and public affairs producer with WMUB. Would really like to meet your dog.