We have a texting and driving problem, and we know this. But despite numerous warnings and horrifying public service announcements, our faces are still peering at screens while flying down the freeway. It’s an epidemic with no known cure. There are temporary fixes, alternative methods—but new research shows those are just as bad in spite of so much promise.
According to research by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, using methods to text with your voice—Siri or Moto X’s awesome Assist software, for example—is just as distracting as using your hands. The news is particularly dismaying considering how thoughtful and advanced hands-free texting has become on some devices. But the study flatly states that response times are delayed no matter what method you prefer. That’s not a good formula while out on the road. Refusing to text at all, of course, should be your first instinct when you’re behind the wheel.
The study itself didn’t exactly cover the breadth of technology available to users—Siri for iPhone and Vlingo for Android were specifically put to the test—and for that matter involved only 43 subjects. But the research found that drivers texting by voice still spent less time watching the road, which tells me that our technology still isn’t quite advanced enough.
Siri still requires some button presses to even get the voice assistant’s attention, while other speaking methods might be distracting because our unease about whether or not our messages are actually sent. Chances are that even when you do use a feature like Moto Assist, you still stare at your screen to make sure the message is accurate, and that it’s going to the correct recipient. That time can be spent looking at the road.
Talking on the phone, whether it’s hands-free or not, has already been found to be distracting no matter what, and it appears texting is much the same. Until there are more advanced methods, it’s better to ignore your device entirely until the vehicle you’re in is parked and off. Moto Assist does have a great quick reply option, so the person who’s texting you at least knows you’re driving. And if that person keeps texting you knowing full well you are on the road, well, that’s an entirely different issue.