In-Car Voice Commands: A possible distraction for Bellevue drivers?

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Distracted driving has become a national health and safety crisis. Studies clearly show the correlation between texting and driving or otherwise using a cell phone and traffic accidents.

So some have turned to in-car voice command systems to keep their hands on the wheel while performing tasks they might otherwise perform using a cell phone. Many car manufacturers include built-in voice command systems, and smartphone makers like Apple have created similar systems in their phones.

But driving requires more than just keeping your hands on the wheel. It also requires keeping your eyes and mind on the road. While in-car voice command systems allow drivers to keep their hands on the wheel and eyes on the road, some are concerned that drivers take their mind off of driving when using the system.

The AAA & University of Utah Study

AAA and the University of Utah recently conducted a study that evaluated the impact mental distractions such as using voice prompts in the vehicle had on a driver’s ability to remain focused on driving tasks. The study showed that mental distractions such as responding to voice prompts can be as distracting as many other distractions.

Researchers at the University of Utah conducted the study. Thirty-six drivers were tested in six different new vehicles, each from a different manufacturer, and including Chrysler, Ford, Chevy, Toyota, Hyundai and Mercedes. The drivers were instructed to maneuver each of the six vehicles through a short loop while trying to complete a number of voice commands via the in-vehicle systems.

Some examples of the prompts include dialing a cell phone through the in-dash system or changing the music playing in the car. Vital statistics including heart rate and the ability to respond to a flashing light attached to their heads were collected and studied. The data was used to analyze how difficult it was for their brains to stay focused and how hard they were working with the distractions present.

How the In-Car Voice Command Systems Fared in the Study

The systems within each vehicle were ranked according to how distracting it was for drivers to use them. For example, the Toyota’s Entune was the least difficult for drivers to use and therefore scored lowest on the distraction scale. It was ranked as providing about as much distraction to the driver as listening to an audiobook.

However, the Chevy MyLink system was the most distracting because the system often made mistakes in understanding the voice input or encountered other errors. Apple’s Siri scored a four out of five on the distraction scale.  A score of five on this scale means that the driver cannot concentrate on driving.

Below are the scores for all of the vehicles tested.

  • 1.7 for Toyota Entune
  • 2.2 for Hyundai Blue Link Telematics
  • 2.7 for Chrysler UConnect
  • 3.0 for Ford SYNC with MyFord Touch
  • 3.1 for Mercedes COMMAND
  • 3.7 for Chevrolet MyLink


The following are the ratings of performing eight different actions to engage with the on-board voice-command system.

  • 1.88 to issue simple commands
  • 2.04 to ask a natural, recorded voice to play emails or texts
  • 2.31 to ask a computerized, recorded voice to play emails or texts
  • 2.83 to use error-free, voice menu system to navigate
  • 3.06 to ask a computerized voice to play and compose emails and texts
  • 3.09 to ask a natural, recorded voice to play and compose emails and texts
  • 3.67 to use an error-prone voice-based menu system to navigate
  • 4.14 to use Apple Siri to navigate, send and receive texts, make social media posts, and use calendar

Call Max Meyers If You're in a Wreck in Bellevue

While we all take measures to help ensure our safety on the roads, car accidents can and do still occur. If another party causes a wreck and you suffer serious damages, call Max Meyers Law at 425-399-7000 or use our contact form.

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Max is a Kirkland personal injury attorney handling cases in Seattle, King County & surrounding in WA State.