A new study has found that nearly half of European drivers admit they have read texts while driving, a highly distracting habit proven to contribute to traffic accidents. (In the US, the Department of Transportation (DOT) has proposed guidelines to encourage automobile manufacturers to limit the distraction risk for in-vehicle electronic devices. Earlier post.)
An average of 48% of motorists surveyed from Germany, Spain, France, Great Britain, Italy and Russia confessed to checking their texts while driving, with 61% of Italian motorists saying they had done so compared with 55% in Russia, 49% in France and Germany, 40% in Spain and 33% in Great Britain.
Despite the prevalence of the practice, drivers surveyed overwhelmingly agreed that reading texts on the move was dangerous. Ninety-five percent of drivers across the six countries agreed that texting affected driver ability and safety. At least half of those surveyed in each country said they believed driver response was 50% slower when checking messages from a mobile phone.
The survey of more than 5,500 drivers showed that drivers in Germany, Spain, France, Great Britain and Italy would be most likely to read a text from their partner while driving. Russian drivers said they were most likely to be distracted by a message from a family member who was not their partner.
Drivers surveyed said they were least likely to read messages from friends, with the exception of those in Germany and France, who were least likely to read work-related texts.
The study was commissioned by Ford to underscore the safety issue as the company prepares to introduce its SYNC in-car connectivity system, which can read aloud incoming messages through a text-to-speech feature and enables drivers to send a text reply by voice from a predetermined list of responses.
Smartphones have quickly become an essential part of many people’s day. However, text messages can be a distraction for drivers, so the benefit of a system that can read messages aloud from compatible smartphones is obvious.—Christof Kellerwessel, chief engineer, Electronic and Electrical Systems Engineering, Ford of Europe
Ford SYNC will debut this summer on the all-new B-MAX and will roll out quickly to other vehicles in Ford’s lineup, including Focus and Kuga. The text-to-speech feature on SYNC, powered by Microsoft, retrieves messages using a simple voice command from Bluetooth-connected compatible smartphones.
SYNC also enables drivers to send a text reply from a predetermined list of responses, helping motorists to remain focused on driving while staying in touch with contacts. The responses include: “I love you”, “Send directions” and “See u in 10min”.
SYNC’s text-to-speech feature will be compatible with an increasing range of smartphones due to Ford’s adoption of the emerging Message Access Profile standard (MAP) for Bluetooth device-to-device connectivity, which is already used by leading mobile device manufacturers including Blackberry producer Research In Motion (RIM).
More than 4 million Ford vehicles in the US already feature SYNC and Ford anticipates 3.5 million new vehicles in Europe will be equipped with SYNC by 2015.
The survey of 5,547 drivers across Germany, Spain, France, Great Britain, Italy and Russia was conducted from 19 to 23 January, 2012, by TNS Research International UK on behalf of Ford of Europe.