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Turn the phone off. Apple’s CarPlay may not be any safer than driving while texting

apple carplay draws concerns safety advocates
Read our full Apple CarPlay review.

Apple CarPlay may seem like a boon to people who love their iPhones as much as their cars, but it’s already drawing criticism from safety advocates.

They’re concerned that the system – which integrates phones with car infotainment interfaces – takes too much emphasis away from the act of driving itself.

David Teater, senior director of the National Safety Council, told CNN Money that CarPlay will exacerbate the problem of distracted driving, saying that car and tech companies are engaged in “an arms race to see how we can enable drivers to do stuff other than driving.”

Manager of research and communications at the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety Bruce Hamilton echoed those concerns, saying carmakers should always prioritize safety, not customers’ desire to use their phones while driving.

Phone use was the main factor in the majority of distracted driving incidents that killed 3,328 people and injured 421,000 in 2012 (the most recent year with available data) according to government statistics.

For its part, Apple believes CarPlay will minimize distractions, because virtually every function can be performed through Siri voice commands, allowing drivers to keep their hands on the wheel and their eyes on the road.

However, several recent studies dispute the claim that hands-free phone use is safer.

Researchers at Texas A&M Transportation Institute found that driver reaction times doubled while texting – whether they did it manually or hands-free. Another study conducted by AAA came to a similar conclusion.

Meanwhile, a University of Utah study rated voice-control programs like Siri and “extensive” risk, saying they were even more of a distraction than talking on a hand-held phone.

While a few states have tried to solve the problem with phone bans, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) says these have had little effect.

An IIHS spokesman told CNN that the most promising solution is more technology.

Carmakers have already introduced systems that can automatically brake a car, or tug it back into its lane. Alongside the Federal government, they’re also experimenting with “vehicle-to-vehicle” (V2V) technology, which allows cars to communicate with each other to avoid crashes.

This – along with the seemingly-inevitable emergence of self-driving cars – could make roads safer by taking responsibility away from the driver.

It seems humans can create remarkable technology, but the ability to use it responsibly is beyond the pale of our abilities.

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Stephen Edelstein
Stephen is a freelance automotive journalist covering all things cars. He likes anything with four wheels, from classic cars…
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