Infotainment systems have become an essential part of modern-day cars because
without them, any new car would be unsaleable.
But research from the American Automobile Association’s Foundation for Traffic Safety
(AAA) has found the much-lauded systems responsible for distracting drivers, often
with disastrous effect.
“Some in-vehicle technology can create unsafe situations for drivers on the road,”
foundation director Dr David Yang said.
“It increases the time they spend with their eyes and attention off the road and hands
off the wheel.”
Yang’s views are echoed by Jake Nelson, director of traffic safety advocacy and
research at AAA, who said carmakers should improve their systems by preventing
people from gaining access to certain features while the vehicle was in motion.
Many systems now include this lockout feature, with Toyota at the forefront of the
“These are solvable problems,” Nelson said.
AAA estimates that using a touchscreen to adjust a navigation system, or even using
voice recognition systems to send a text can distract drivers by 40 seconds or more.
The AAA worked with University of Utah researchers to study the time it took drivers to
perform various tasks while driving.
Some vehicles don’t allow drivers to program navigation, but 12 of the 30 current year
cars tested did – and drivers took an average 40 seconds to complete the task.
Taking eyes off the road while driving at 40km/h covers the length of four football fields.
The AAA also pointed out that previous research showed distractions of even two
seconds doubled the risk of an accident.
Of the 30 systems tested, 23 demanded what it deemed high or very high levels of
attention, seven rated as moderate.
None achieved a low ranking – the equivalent of listening to the radio or an audiobook
The research follows statistics that showed an almost 9 per cent increase in fatal
crashes in the US.