Not too long ago, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety conducted a study that sought to determine how dangerous various driving distractions truly are. The study, which involved both a simulator and a real-world driving experience, is analyzed in greater depth in a new report.
The first distraction, and the one that was identified as posing the smallest risk, was listening to the radio. Researchers found that keeping the radio at a reasonable volume level and sticking to one station took a relatively small amount of focus from the road. The next greatest distraction, which researchers still deemed as being a relative non-threat, was an audiobook. People who listened intently were not significantly more at risk.
Things started to change once the driver was required to communicate. Drivers were first asked to carry on a dialogue with someone next to them in the car. They were instructed to keep their head forward. At such times, distraction levels bumped up to the moderate level. They then had to talk on handheld cellphones, which also caused a moderate amount of distraction. The threat level was nearly identical to when the driver used a hands-free phone to talk.
But the biggest threat to safety researchers found was that posed by speech-to-text systems. The cognitive workload required for this task forced the driver to switch focus from the road, which would pose extensive risks.