In its continued research into distracted driving, the American Automobile Association (AAA) today published the results of its latest study that aimed to show the level of mental distraction related to using voice commands on the road. The study included using the iPhone’s Siri voice commands for making calls and changing music while driving and compared those results with using voice activated systems from car manufacturers and other smartphone makers.

Researchers found that potentially unsafe levels of mental distraction can last for as long as 27 seconds after completing a distracting task in the worst-performing systems studied. At the 25 MPH speed limit in the study, drivers traveled the length of nearly three football fields during this time. When using the least distracting systems, drivers remained impaired for more than 15 seconds after completing a task…

The researchers discovered the residual effects of mental distraction while comparing new hands-free technologies in ten 2015 vehicles and three types of smart phones. The analysis found that all systems studied increased mental distraction to potentially unsafe levels. The systems that performed best generally had fewer errors, required less time on task and were relatively easy to use.

In the study (visualized in the chart below), Apple scored a 3.4, which puts it in AAA’s “high distraction” category and behind Android’s Google Now feature and several car manufacturers. Products coming in with a better score than Siri included the Ford Taurus, Android’s Google Now feature, the Toyota 4Runner, the Buick Lacrosse, and the Chevy Equinox. On the other side of the chart, the study showed Volkswagen, Chrysler, Hyundai, Microsoft’s Cortana feature for Windows smartphones, and Mazda with systems that result in more distraction than Siri.


While the study used smartphones docked within the car to test the platforms, it didn’t make mention of whether or not it considered Apple’s Carplay platform, which allows use of iPhone features from in-dash systems in select vehicles. It’s likely not yet including the platform since it’s only available in a handful of select vehicles, but it didn’t specify what specific features it used to test platforms from the car manufacturers. For the most part, however, the voice command experience with CarPlay is comparable to using a docked iPhone.

To go along with the data, AAA published some video showing how it performed the tests:

Earlier this year AAA launched a road safety campaign that showed real videos of young people getting in accidents while the results of its first smartphone related distracted driver study were published last year. 

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About the Author

Jordan Kahn

Jordan writes about all things Apple as Senior Editor of 9to5Mac, & contributes to 9to5Google, 9to5Toys, & He also co-authors 9to5Mac’s Logic Pros series.