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New Study on Distracted Driving Wednesday's Access Utah

Woman driving car, with sensors attached to cap on her head.
David Strayer

According to NPR, AAA CEO Robert Darbelnet is saying that the proliferation of hands-free technology in cars "is a looming public safety crisis," and that "It's time to consider limiting new and potentially dangerous mental distractions built into cars." This follows the publication of a new study from AAA and the University of Utah. U of U psychology professor David Strayer, the lead investigator, says that "these new, speech-based technologies in the car can overload the driver's attention and impair their ability to drive safely."  He adds that we shouldn’t  assume that if our eyes are on the road and our hands are on the wheel that we aren’t unimpaired. The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers says that they “are extremely concerned that [the study] could send a misleading message, since it suggests that hand-held and hands-free devices are equally risky." AAM says that the AAA study focuses only on the mental distraction posed by using a device and ignores the visual and manual aspects of hand-held versus hands-free systems that are integrated into cars. What has your experience been with these new technologies? Have you had a close call (or worse) with a distracted driver? Are new laws needed to regulate the use of hands-free technology in our cars? What should be done to eliminate distracted driving? Our guests include U of U Professor David Strayer; and Jake Nelson, AAA Director of Traffic Safety Advocacy & Research.

Tom Williams worked as a part-time UPR announcer for a few years and joined Utah Public Radio full-time in 1996. He is a proud graduate of Uintah High School in Vernal and Utah State University (B. A. in Liberal Arts and Master of Business Administration.) He grew up in a family that regularly discussed everything from opera to religion to politics. He is interested in just about everything and loves to engage people in conversation, so you could say he has found the perfect job as host “Access Utah.” He and his wife Becky, live in Logan.