‘Explosion of technology’ on dashboards is distracting drivers
On behalf of Law Offices of Steven H. Dorne posted in Car Accidents on October 19, 2017.
A recent study for AAA’s Foundation for Traffic Safety by a University of Utah professor indicates that the “infotainment” technology automakers are increasingly adding to vehicle dashboards is highly distracting. The professor notes that previous studies have noted the problem but that an “explosion of technology” usable behind the wheel is making the problem worse.
The problem is not only that automakers are including a lot of this technology but also that it’s becoming more complicated. Instead of a few knobs and buttons, some vehicles now sport 50 multi-functional buttons on the steering wheel alone. There are also touch screens, heads-up windshield displays, voice commands, 3-D computer-generated images and even writing pads, according to the Associated Press.
Carmakers are “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,” said the professor. And, the more complex these systems are, the more time drivers have to spend paying attention to using them — and that takes their minds away from the road.
The auto industry claims that vehicle-integrated systems are a better alternative than using a smartphone behind the wheel. They’re “designed to be used in the driving environment and require driver attention that is comparable to tuning the radio or adjusting climate controls,” said the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, “which have always been considered baseline acceptable behaviors while driving.”
AAA isn’t sure that’s true. In the study, drivers sacrificed eyes on the road for use of technology in all 30 2017 cars and light trucks tested. Sometimes they sacrificed hands on the wheel.
While it was true that drivers looked away from the road less often when using voice commands than other technology, any benefit appears to have been offset by more time spent using the technology.
Tuning the radio and adjusting climate controls may be common activities, but they shouldn’t be considered the baseline for driving behavior. Every driver’s baseline should be keeping their eyes and attention on the road and their hands on the wheel at all times. Undertaking any activity while driving, no matter how small, should only be done when drivers feel sure their attention won’t be divided.
According to AAA, motorists should use infotainment systems “only for legitimate emergencies or urgent, driving-related purposes.”
“Drivers want technology that is safe and easy to use,” said the head of the safety group, “but many of the features added to infotainment systems today have resulted in overly complex and sometimes frustrating user experiences for drivers.”