High-Tech Features Distract Drivers for Dangerously Long Periods, AAA Study Finds

BUSINESS New cars are more distracting than ever 5 Oct 2017 5:30pm 4 minutes to read Distractions in new cars are a problem
BUSINESS New cars are more distracting than ever 5 Oct 2017 5:30pm 4 minutes to read Distractions in new cars are a problem
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07 October, 2017

The study, led by psychology professor David Strayer, found in-vehicle information systems - including SatNav, MP3 players, radios, cellphones and messaging devices - take drivers' attention off the road for too long to be safe, much like texting.

While previous research has shown that taking your eyes off the road for as little as two seconds doubles the risk of a crash, AAA found that entering a new destination into the navigation system could take drivers more than 40 seconds.

The study showed that drivers who used voice commands and touch screens to program Global Positioning System were distracted for an average of 40 seconds, while talk-to-texting tasks took about 30 seconds. When driving at 25 miles per hour, a driver can travel the length of four football fields during the time it could take to enter a destination in navigation-all while distracted from the important task of driving. Twelve of the 30 vehicles allow navigation destinations to be entered while driving; for safety, AAA recommends locking out this functionality while the auto is in motion. It focused on the infotainment systems of 30 vehicles, each ranked by the level of distraction-low, moderate, high, and very high-be it visual, cognitive, or both.

"We're off the rails in terms of the level of distractions we're seeing", he said.

AAA says they're sharing the results of their research with automakers, but they're also warning drivers that just because certain technology is available while driving doesn't mean it's safe to use when behind the wheel and they should act responsibly.

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Even older drivers called the technology cumbersome.

But with Strayer's research, it seems that the argument is focusing on the dangers that complicated technology and their interfaces, present inside a vehicle. He's been examining the impact of infotainment systems on safety since 2013. In 2015, however, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recorded that 3,477 people were killed and around 391,000 were injured in motor vehicles because of distracted drivers. Automakers should also design infotainment systems so that they require no more attention to use than listening to the radio or an audiobook, it said.

Carmakers are cramming more and more technology into our cars-including the ones we still have to drive.

AAA said drivers should use infotainment technologies "only for legitimate emergencies or urgent, driving-related purposes". Some of the new features are truly useful, such as those relating to driving aids and safety improvement, while others are perhaps more gadget.


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