Distracted driving is a significant concern and one of the biggest reasons why fatal crashes have increased in recent years. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration states that deadly accidents caused by distracted driving jumped 8.8 percent in 2015 to 3,477 crashes.
Cell phones are largely to blame for distracted driving, but making calls and answering texts are far from the only distractions you can experience behind the wheel. In fact, the advanced dashboard touch-screens in new cars, known as infotainment systems, offer built-in distractions for drivers.
One in three American adults drive cars with infotainment systems, which are capable of handling a wide range of tasks. You can listen to satellite radio or music from your Bluetooth-connected cell phone. You can use GPS navigation to get where you’re going, check your voicemail, and even send emails by navigating the big, bright screen. For all intents and purposes, infotainment systems in modern cars serve as a mobile command center.
Researching Cars with Built-in Distractions
A new study from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, conducted by researchers at the University of Utah, found that the distraction level was “high” or “very high” in 23 out of 30 vehicle infotainment systems from 2017 model-year cars.
The study involved tracking 120 drivers ages 21 to 36 as they attempted to drive around Salt Lake City, Utah and use features of the infotainment system at the same time. In one instance, a driver nearly hit a woman in a crosswalk, while another would have rolled through a stop sign if the researcher in the car with him hadn’t spoken up.
Ironically, changing the radio station and adjusting the temperature in these advanced vehicles are often much more complicated than pressing a button or turning a knob. This is what led the drivers in the study to become so distracted. It’s no stretch of the imagination to assume that this level of distraction increases the chance of car accidents.
The Auto Industry Takes Issue with AAA’s Study
The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers said in a statement:
“Researchers continue to make no attempt to tie their results to actual crash risk…or accurately simulate how drivers actually use these systems in the real world.”
It’s true that the features found in modern cars can be incredibly useful, but the fact remains that reading options on a screen and scrolling through menus take your hands off the wheel and your eyes off the road. Infotainment systems aren’t always user-friendly, causing drivers to focus more on changing a setting or navigating to another screen than on watching what’s happening on the road around them.
Jake Nelson, director of traffic safety advocacy and research at AAA states:
“By building these systems into cars, consumers assume that they are safe to use. And this research shows clearly that this is not necessarily the case.”
Limiting Built-in Distractions in Modern Cars
Nelson says automakers could improve the distraction ratings of their infotainment systems and increase roadway safety by preventing access to certain features while the vehicle is in motion.
For instance, 12 of the 30 vehicle infotainment systems tested in the study allow drivers to program directions while driving. The study found that this task takes an average of 40 seconds to complete—plenty of time for an accident to occur. By requiring the car to be in park, programming directions into the GPS wouldn’t contribute to dangerous distractions behind the wheel.
Maintain Your Car to Prevent Accidents
Aside from avoiding distracted driving, taking good care of your car is another way to help prevent accidents. The next time your vehicle needs an oil change or repair, stop by Scott’s Fort Collins Auto for the professional automotive services you need. You can also schedule an appointment online or call ahead at (970) 682-4202.