Distracted Driving: Plugging In, Zoning Out

Camille Francis
October 7, 2017

Many of these systems take drivers' eyes and attention off the road and hands off the wheel for potentially unsafe periods of time, according to a new study from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

A study conducted by the foundation for The Road Safety of Automobile Association of American (American Automobile Association Foundation for Traffic Safety) on these new in-vehicle technologies would show that they can be unsafe.

"Drivers want technology that is safe and easy to use, but numerous features added to infotainment systems today have resulted in overly complex and sometimes frustrating user experiences for drivers", said Marshall Doney, AAA's president and CEO. AAA researchers said that at 25 miles per hour, a person could cover the length of four football fields in 40 seconds. They measured how much drivers had to look at the screen and think about what they were doing while making a call, sending a text or using the stereo and navigation system.

The study found that 23 of the 30 different vehicles they tested required "high" or "very high" driver attention to use the technology. The scale ranged from low to very high levels of demand. "When in-vehicle technology is not properly designed, simple tasks for drivers can become complicated and require more effort from drivers to complete".

"Drivers want technology that is safe and easy to use, but numerous features added to infotainment systems today have resulted in overly complex and sometimes frustrating user experiences for drivers", said Marshall Doney, AAA's president and CEO.

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Fatal crashes are on the rise in the US, and distracted driving is a major reason for the increase, the foundation believes. "With the best intentions, we will put some technology in the vehicle that we think will make the auto safer, but people being people will use that technology in ways that we don't anticipate".

Infotainment systems are typically touch-screen based systems that provide directions, music, phone capability and radio, among other options.

The biggest problem was programming navigation, something the study suggested could take as long as 40 seconds. Deaths involving distracted driving jumped 8.8% to 3,477 in 2015, the latest year in which statistics were available, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The rise of "infotainment" #Technology in cars has caused a professor to raise concern about the distraction the newest cars are providing for drivers.

AAA also indicated that driver frustration with these infotainments systems increases cognitive demand and thus raises the potential for distracted driving.

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