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Why Your Car’s Technology Could Increase Distracted Driving

December 18, 2017

Every day, nine people are killed and more than 1,000 people are injured because of distracted driving.

While car manufacturers have made efforts to increase safety by installing voice-controlled technology to reduce driver distractions, recent research by The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety finds that some of these technologies may be doing more harm than good.

The foundation says new vehicle infotainment systems, which are usually located on a vehicle’s dashboard, take driver’s attention away from the road and make it more dangerous for them and other motorists.

With the help of researchers from the University of Utah, The AAA Foundation monitored 120 drivers between the ages of 21 and 36 who used infotainment systems. The study participants drove 30 different 2017 vehicles, including a Toyota Camry, Cadillac XT5, Ford Mustang and Chrysler 300.

Researchers told the drivers to use technologies, like voice-enabled or touch screen text messaging, GPS navigation or radio station tuning, while they were behind the wheel. They found navigation distracted drivers for an average of 40 seconds, and that 23 out of the 30 vehicle systems required a high or very high level of demand from drivers. The vehicles in these categories included both luxury and non-luxury cars, like the Infiniti Q50 Premium, Ford Fusion Titanium, Kia Sorento LX, Nissan Maxima SV, Audi Q7 QPP and the Tesla Model S.

Programming navigation while driving is especially dangerous because research shows that someone driving 25 mph can travel the length of four football fields during the time it takes to do this task. According to The AAA Foundation, one in three American adults uses infotainment systems while driving, so it’s crucial that we figure out a way to make these technologies safer.

One of the most effective ways to accomplish this is to reduce the time it takes for drivers to do  in-vehicle programming tasks so they spend less time with their eyes off the road. If car manufacturers focus on increasing user-friendly design, this could reduce distractions for drivers. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) also has issued recommendations that call for locking out text messaging, social media and programming navigation when someone is driving. If a driver can’t access these features when he or she is behind the wheel, it’s much less likely the person will be distracted enough to cause an accident.

“These are solvable problems. By following NHTSA’s voluntary guidelines to lock out certain features that generate high demand while driving, automakers can significantly reduce distraction,” Jake Nelson, AAA’s director of Traffic Safety Advocacy & Research, said in a news release. “AAA cautions drivers that just because a technology is available while driving does not mean it is safe or easy to use when behind the wheel. Drivers should only use these technologies for legitimate emergencies or urgent, driving related purposes.”