AAA study: New tech in cars distracts drivers

Voice-controlled systems allowing motorists to use their sat-nav or text at the wheel can be so distracting they should be banned a new study advises

A study published Thursday from AAA found vehicles with "infotainment" technologies like touch screens and voice command are increasing the distraction level for drivers and could lead to a higher risk of distracted driving crashes.

Researchers at the University of Utah commissioned by the AAA foundation for traffic safety examined the time it took drivers to complete a task using the infotainment systems in 30 2017 vehicles.

The researchers found that entering a destination into the navigation system was the most demanding of drivers' attention, followed by texting. At 25 miles per hour, that's enough time for a driver to travel the length of four football fields, a long distance to be distracted from the road. None of the vehicle systems tested were categorizes as low demand, seven of the systems produced moderate demand, 11 systems commandeered high demand and 12 systems very high demand.

"It's adding more and more layers of complexity and information at drivers' fingertips without often considering whether it's a good idea to put it at their fingertips", Strayer said. With one in three USA adults using infotainment systems while driving, AAA cautions that using these technologies while behind the wheel can have risky consequences.

Even older drivers called the technology cumbersome. Hopefully this study helps us all get on the Road to Zero and commit to keeping each other safe.

The study looked at what the most taxing task is while driving, what it physically and mentally takes to complete a task, and how these demands vary across vehicle systems. "Automakers agree that hands on the wheel and eyes on the road continue to be critical to safe driving", Wade Newton, a spokesman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, told Chicago Tribune in an email. He's been examining the impact of infotainment systems on safety since 2013.

The guidelines also recommend automakers prevent drivers from texting while driving, but three-quarters of the vehicles tested permit drivers to text while the auto is moving. The latest report is the fifth phase of distraction research from AAA's Center for Driving Safety and Technology.

AAA said drivers should use infotainment technologies "only for legitimate emergencies or urgent, driving-related purposes".

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