COLOGNE, Germany – A new study shows nearly half of European drivers admit they have read texts while driving, a highly distracting habit proven to contribute to traffic accidents.
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.
An average of 48 per cent of motorists surveyed from Germany, Spain, France, Great Britain, Italy and Russia confessed to checking their texts while driving, with 61 per cent of Italian motorists saying they had done so compared with 55 per cent in Russia, 49 per cent in France and Germany, 40 per cent in Spain and 33 per cent in Great Britain.
Despite the prevalence of the practice, drivers surveyed overwhelmingly agreed that reading texts on the move was dangerous. Ninety-five per cent 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 per cent slower when checking messages from a mobile phone.
“Smartphones have quickly become an essential part of many people’s day,” said Christof Kellerwessel, chief engineer, Electronic and Electrical Systems Engineering, Ford of Europe. “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.”
Ford SYNC will debut in Europe this summer on the all-new B-MAX and will roll out quickly to other vehicles in Ford’s line-up, 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”.
The survey of more than 5,500 drivers showed that drivers in Germany, Spain, France, Great Britain and Italy would be mostly 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.
SYNC’s text-to-speech feature will be compatible with an increasing range of smartphones thanks 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).