Washington: A researcher has warned that providing high-speed Internet access in vehicles can be hazardous to the health of drivers because it may distract them.
Professor Ian Spence, researcher at the Department of Psychology at the University of Toronto, said that many people assume that talking to a voice-operated device will be as safe as using a hands-free cell phone, but neither activity is safe.
Spence and a team of researchers asked subjects to perform an attentional visual field test in which they repeatedly identified the random location of an object in visual clutter displayed on a computer monitor. Subjects performed the test while carrying out a range of listening and/or speaking tasks or in silence.
An example of an easy task was listening to recordings of news items, much like listening to a car radio. More difficult tasks required subjects to answer simple yes-no questions while performing the visual test.
Subjects who completed the test of visual attention coupled with the listening and speaking tasks were as accurate as those who completed the visual test in silence.
However, they responded much more slowly as the difficulty increased - as much as one second slower with the most demanding tasks.
"At 50 kilometres per hour, a car travels 13.9 metres in one second. A driver who brakes one second earlier than another driver to avoid a collision, will either prevent it completely or be travelling more slowly when it occurs, lowering the probability of severe injury or fatality. A delay in braking by as much as one second presents a significant threat to safe driving and casts doubt on the belief that hands-free voice-controlled devices reduce driver distraction," Spence said.