Study: iPhone’s Siri just as dangerous in the car as texting

Along with tips on how to keep mobile devices and data secure, here’s another item companies may want to add to their smartphone training: 

Warnings to avoid dangerous driving habits.

Companies want to keep their employees safe and out of accidents — but as more employees do work on mobile phones there are also legal and financial threats for companies.

In 2008, a lawsuit was filed after a woman was badly injured in a car accident. The driver of the other car rear-ended the woman while speeding — and talking on a company-issued cell phone.

Since the driver was on a company phone and doing work at the time of the accident, the victim sued the employer, which ended up settling for $5.2 million.

Train users

That was despite the fact that the company had a policy banning employees from using their phones while in the car. That’s why experts warn those policies should be coupled with effective safety training that emphasizes the very real dangers of distracted driving.

Of course, most adults should be aware that it’s not a good idea to talk on the phone, send text messages or read emails while behind the wheel, but there’s another popular smartphone function that can also be dangerous: voice recognition applications.

Many smartphones include functions that allow users to place calls, read and send messages, and perform other tasks hands-free using voice commands.

Users often take advantage of that functionality while in the car. However, doing so can also lead to more car accidents, according to a study conducted at Texas A&M University.

Researchers examined 43 participants driving on a test track under three conditions: first with no electronic devices, then while typing text messages, and finally while using Apple’s Siri voice recognition system to respond to messages.

The result: The participants’ ability to react was just as impaired while using Siri as while texting in the traditional way. In both cases, response times were twice as long as when no electronic devices were present in the car.

It may be a good idea to ban all smartphone use — including hands-free use — in a company’s mobile device policy and to include a warning in training for employees who are issued smartphones or bring in a personal device as part of a BYOD program.