Driving tests

Software to speak email while you drive

It’s obviously incredibly dangerous to take your eyes of the road while you are driving and, in an ideal world, we would keep 100% of our attention on the road, too. But that’s not realistic for some of us who may have to drive with distractions such as transporting children and pets. Fortunately as we become practiced at driving we become able to have conversations, or listen to the radio.

If you’re someone who gets a lot of email, having software that reads your email to you could be very beneficial, particularly if you spend a lot of time in stop-start rush hour traffic, as you can maximise your time.

While we’re not recommending you do anything that takes your concentration away from the road, listening to email is no more engaging than having an in-depth conversation with a passenger, so it would be hypocritical of us to say not to do it.

We tried Speaking Email, a new piece of software for iPhone which is currently free and works with Gmail, Outlook.com, Yahoo Mail, iCloud and IMAP accounts. It reads HTML email out aloud – good for newsletters – and has functions that are optimised for driving. You can swipe left and right to check your email, archive email by double-tapping anywhere, and scroll up and down.

The software is easy to customise so that you can archive or star your email. You can slow down or increase the reading speed, speak unread emails first, speak unplayed emails first and mark as read once spoken. The software also attempts to skip reading signatures and disclaimers, mostly successfully, and lets you know it’s skipping information.

When you first log in it will download your email and you have the option to play email based on your preferences. When you log in again it tells you how long ago it last checked your email. It will also check for email periodically and read new emails when they are discovered.

There are customisable quick replies (not technically legal to use while driving, but useful in other situations where you might be listening to your email, such as when jogging or making breakfast).

On my iPhone 5 there is plenty of room on the screen for the controls and seeing the email. The only extra function I would like is a simple repeat button on the page rather than having the settings button on the page.

Police have been cracking down on the use of apps while driving, so my technique is to set it reading before I leave and then it will read email until it runs out. A simple swipe doesn’t require me to look at the screen at all (much less than, for example, using the phone as a sat nav tool).

It’s a useful piece of software for those who are busy and receive a lot of email.

You can download it from the App store here.

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Darren is a member of the Institute of Advanced Motorists and the NZ Motoring Writers' Guild

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Posted in Advice, Car, Heavy Vehicle
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