Researcher: 'Infotainment' Screens In Cars Putting Drivers In Danger

Complicated 'infotainment' car increasing risk of road deaths

The AAA's Foundation for Traffic Safety commissioned the study, and they have found the results to be alarming. We just wish those new touchscreen consoles weren't so much fun to use.

Federal law prohibits train engineers from using cellphones, but there's no federal ban on vehicle drivers. For a long time, automakers have argued that technology in the dashboard and the steering wheel is infinitely preferable to using a smartphone, for example. There are touch screens, voice commands, writing pads, heads-up displays on windshields and mirrors and 3-D computer-generated images.

The most distracting task is navigation, taking drivers' attention away from the road ahead for more than 40 seconds at a time on average.

(Remember, infotainment systems may be different in Australian models). The researchers also concluded that frustration from trying to use hard systems leads to even more driver distraction.

The manufacturers of these vehicles face a hard decision.

"The surprise here is that these are technologies built and marketed as making us safe and less distracted behind the wheel", says Jake Nelson, director of traffic and safety research at AAA.

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Researchers developed an advanced rating scale to measure the various demands experienced by drivers using each vehicle's infotainment system. Seven were rated "moderate".

"Drivers want technology that is safe and easy to use, but numerous features added to infotainment systems today have resulted in overly complex and sometimes frustrating user experiences for drivers", said Marshall Doney, President of the AAA.

According to a study by the American Automobile Association Foundation, usually the driver of a auto moving at the speed of 25 miles per hour takes somewhere around 40 seconds to program the navigation system of the vehicle.

According to AAA, previous research shows that removing eyes from the road for just two seconds doubles the risk for a crash. However, the ability to program navigation while driving was available in 12 vehicles in the study. In response, some have called for automakers to allow drivers to disable certain infotainment controls while the vehicle is running.

These new uses bring nothing in terms of safety for the driver.

"This is troublesome because motorists may assume that features that are enabled when they are driving are safe and easy to use", said David Strayer, a cognitive and neural scientist at the University of Utah, in a statement.

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