That hands-free system you got with your new car — the silky voice that lets you keep your eyes on the road and hands on the wheel while offering a menu of commands — is not the safety feature you hoped, experts say.
A list of operations voiced by such a system can distract a driver for more than 15 seconds, and that's why the Canadian Automobile Association has added in-car, hands-free devices to its list of safety concerns.
"When it [hands-free system] comes in your car, you're assuming that it's safe," the CAA's Liz Peters told CBC News. "But what you need to keep in mind is that your hands are on the wheel, your eyes are on the road, but if your mind isn't on the road then that's a distraction and that's the most dangerous kind."
'Drivers need to be honest with themselves, and do what they need to do behind the wheel — which is drive.' - Liz Peters, Canadian Automobile Association
Damion Ebanks admits the system in his car, which automatically connects with his cellphone, is distracting.
"I've driven a couple blocks and thought, 'where am I again?'" after finishing a conversation, the Winnipegger told CBC News.
Stan Demburg's in-car system is a little more old school — cables connect his cellphone to his car, and he uses the cellphone to issue voice commands. But to avoid having to swipe his screen to answer a call, he had to buy another hands-free device.
"You can press this thing to answer the phone — that's way less distracting," he said, while admitting it's safer to stay off his cell while driving.
Peters says drivers need to be clear about their priorities.
"Drivers need to be honest with themselves, and do what they need to do behind the wheel — which is drive," Peters said. "If there is something in your car, your best bet is to turn it off while you're driving."
The top driving concerns on the CAA list include:
- Talking to or engaging with an in-car system.
- Texting, emailing or talking on a cellphone while driving.
- Drinking and driving.
- Running red lights.
- Speeding on residential streets.
- Driving aggressively.
- Driving while drowsy.
- Driving after using illegal drugs .