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Driving and iPhone or Siri Do Not Mix

Hands-Free Siri Interactions Result in Highest Levels of Mental Distraction While Driving

Study Shows Voice-Controlled Devices Distract Drivers

Siri or not, I take a hard line on this and more: use of any phone or similar device while driving is impaired driving. Period. And MPG thinks that Apple is grossly irresponsible to encourage any use of Siri in cars until its impairment load is reduced to a very low level.

Apple’s Siri, running on a modified version of iOS 7, scored the worst in testing, with a 4.1 point workload rating. That’s several steps up in mental workload from just talking on a cellphone, and just shy of the top of the scale, which Strayer described as “like trying to balance your checkbook” while driving.

As a cyclist, I am increasingly disturbed by what I see drivers doing with the iPhone and its ilk; it’s an epidemic of poor judgment. Like the harried parent (school pickup) with a lead foot texting as he careened towards me on my bicycle, apparently never even seeing me, but getting within 3-4 feet under hard acceleration. Perhaps that sort of thing should be punished just like a 0.10 DUI.

In my view, texting and similar while driving are incredibly dangerous. And so Apple’s idea of building iPhone-like functionality into a vehicle is irresponsible at best, to the extent that the idea is to offer interactive features or alert-type information that encourages a driver to read the alert/text/whatever while driving (which is illegal under California law now).

The causes of impaired driving are legion. The implications of that are worth pondering as to a proper legal framework that holds impaired drivers responsible whatever the cause: smoking pot, driving under the influence, or texting. Even holding a phone conversation (hands free or not) is distracting. But DUI is a stigmatized act, whereas social media usage and phone calls while driving are not. This is a new area of the law that requires some thought as communication devices evolve.

Elizabeth C writes:

I could not agree more. As far as I’m concerned, the real problem with using a cell phone while driving (whether hands free or not) is that it requires the same “higher functioning” portions of the brain as does driving.

So, if one is fully involved in a phone conversation, it is inevitable that one’s ability to process all relevant inputs while driving and then react accordingly in an accurate and timely fashion will suffer. If a situation arises where a driver has a split second to make a potentially life and death decision…. I know that I would want to be in complete control of my ability to make the “correct” decision. Unfortunately, too many drivers handicap themselves when facing such conditions. And we see this with all too frequent tragic results. We need to do better.

MPG: I admit to using a cell phone while driving, but except in dire need, only on deserted roads. In traffic, it scares the bejesus out of me.

Also, do we really think people can use medical marijuana and drive with all this? That scares me even more. Like when I was riding my bike about 2 weeks ago, and after pounding hard on the car trunk of the idiot in the bike lane (at 20 mph), to let this killer-wannabe know he was trying to kill me, he didn’t even notice. I think he was stoned and listening to his iPod.

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