New vehicle technology creates unsafe distractions for drivers

Olive Hawkins
October 9, 2017

The technology is also becoming more complicated to use.

A growing array of technology in new cars can pose a risky risk for distracted drivers.

"Sending text messages, checking social media, even surfing the web while you're behind the wheel". While earlier, cars used to have only a few buttons and knobs, some vehicles now have as many as 50 buttons on the steering wheel and dashboard.

"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", Tidwell said.

And while many cars disable the Global Positioning System function while the vehicle is moving, out of the 30 cars tested 12 of them allowed use of the Global Positioning System while moving.

But Newton compared the infotainment systems to tuning the radio or adjusting climate controls, "which have always been considered baseline acceptable behaviors while driving", he said. The test drivers used voice commands, touch screens and other interactive technologies to make calls, send texts, tune the radio or program navigation all while driving.

"Some in-vehicle technology can create unsafe situations for drivers on the road by increasing the time they spend with their eyes and attention off the road and hands off the wheel", said Jana L. Tidwell, manager of public and government affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic.

Clearly automakers haven't worked hard enough to make the systems quick and easy to use, Nelson said.

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The study ranked a pool of 30 vehicles' "infotainment" systems for low, moderate, high and very high levels of distraction - meaning visual (eyes-of-the-road) and cognitive demand.

Teater said he hopes employers will lead the charge for change by requiring employees to pledge not to use their phones and certain other technologies while driving.

For example, a driver of a auto moving at 25 miles-per-hour could take 40 seconds - or cross the length of three football fields - to adjust the navigation system, according to the report. At 25 miles per hour (40 kph), a vehicle can travel the length of four football fields during the time it takes to enter a destination.

Federal traffic safety officials do recommend that automakers block access to infotainment system technology when a vehicle is moving, but the guidelines are only voluntary.

A study done by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety shows that drivers who remove their eyes from the road for two seconds double their risk for getting into a crash. However, the ability to programme navigation while driving was available in 12 vehicles in the study. Text messaging was the second most distracting task; audio entertainment and calling and dialing were the easiest to perform and did not significantly differ in overall demand.

With one in three US adults using "infotainment systems" while driving, AAA cautions that using these technologies while behind the wheel can have risky consequences. Navigation systems have made driving safer and easier, they say, but they are also distracting and unsafe when used while driving instead of before driving. Included in the auto, which allow drivers to use touchscreen of voice-based technologies among other tools, has a "very-high" level of distraction including WiFi and a user-system that is hard to navigate, creating high mental demand for long periods of time, the report said.

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

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