The study, published in April by the Texas Transportation Institute at Texas A&M University, compared drivers who used traditional texting on a handheld device with those who used hands-free applications that convert voice to text.
For the study, 43 drivers were asked to operate a vehicle on a closed course.
First, drivers navigated the course without any use of a cellphone. Then, each driver travelled the course three more times performing a series of texting exercises, once using two voice-to-text applications and once texting manually.
Researchers then measured the time it took each driver to complete the tasks. They also noted how long it took for drivers to respond to a light that came on at random intervals during the exercise.
Researchers found the drivers’ reaction times were equally as slow whether they were using hands-free or voice-activated texting.
"There are different ways you can be distracted, either visually, manually or cognitively," said Christine Yager, a researcher for Texas A&M University.
"No matter which texting method was used on the cellphone, the response times were approximately two times slower than the no texting condition."
Distracted driving laws in place
According to the Canadian Automobile Association, all provinces and territories, except Nunavut, have some sort of distracted driving-cellphone legislation in place, most banning texting or talking on the phone using a hand-held device, and levying fines and/or demerit points if caught.
No Canadian jurisdiction bans all drivers from using hands-free cellphones while driving, the CAA says.
B.C.allows drivers to use a phone, as long as it's a hands-free device that requires no more than one touch of a button to operate.
RCMP Cpl. Bert Paquet urges drivers to focus on the road.
"Although a hands-free device is a legal device, we recommend that you stay dedicated to the task at hand, " he said.
Distracted driving is the third-leading cause of fatal car crashes in the province, according to ICBC.
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