By Pete Bigelow

Automakers are hyping voice-activated features as a means to preventing driver distractions and keeping drivers focused on the road. But a new report says hands-free technologies can distract drivers even if their eyes are on the road and hands are on the wheel, and these mental diversions can persist for as long as 27 seconds after a driver has completed a task.

Researchers from AAA discovered the residual effects of mental distraction while studying hands-free technologies offered in ten vehicles. The national organization said the results raised “new and unexpected concerns” about the proliferation of these hands-free features in new cars.

“The lasting effects of mental distractions pose a hidden and pervasive danger that would likely come as a surprise to most drivers,” said Peter Kissinger, president and CEO of AAA’s Foundation for Traffic Safety. “Motorists could miss stop signs, pedestrians and other vehicles while the mind is readjusting to the task of driving.”