Think your car's infotainment system is safe to use while driving? Think again.
AAA Foundation study reveals in-vehicle technology takes one step forward, two steps back
DENVER (Oct. 5, 2017) – Coloradans who believe your vehicle's integrated infotainment system is safe to use behind the wheel, be forewarned: These systems take your eyes and attention off the road and hands off the wheel for potentially dangerous periods of time. That's the takeaway from new research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
Drivers using in-vehicle technologies such as voice-based and touch-screen features were visually and mentally distracted for more than 40 seconds when completing tasks such as punching in a navigation destination or sending a text message. And, according to previous AAA research, removing eyes from the road for just two seconds doubles the risk for a crash. With one in three American adults using infotainment systems while driving, AAA Colorado cautions that relying on these technologies behind the wheel can have dangerous consequences.
"Many drivers assume that using their car's integrated infotainment system is safer than, say, sending a text message or checking a notification on their phone," said AAA Colorado spokesman Skyler McKinley. "The bottom line is that simply isn't true: Anything that takes your eyes off the road endangers you and other Coloradans. Just because a technology is available while driving does not mean it is safe or easy to use when behind the wheel. In fact, it usually means the opposite."
The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety commissioned researchers from the University of Utah to examine the visual (eyes off road) and cognitive (mental) demand as well as the time it took drivers to complete a task using the infotainment systems in 30 new 2017 vehicles. Study participants were required to use voice command, touch screen and other interactive technologies to make a call, send a text message, tune the radio or program navigation, all while driving down the road.
Programming navigation was the most distracting task, taking an average of 40 seconds for drivers to complete. When driving at 25 mph, a driver can travel the length of four football fields during the time it could take to enter a destination in navigation-all while distracted from the important task of driving. Programming navigation while driving was available in 12 of the 30 vehicle systems tested.
None of the 30 vehicle infotainment systems produced low demand, while 23 systems generated high or very high levels of demand on drivers:
- 12 systems generated very high demand
- 11 systems generated high demand
- 7 systems generated moderate demand
A low level of demand is about the same as listening to the radio or an audiobook, while very high demand is equivalent to trying to balance a checkbook while driving. AAA believes a safe in-vehicle technology system should not exceed a low level of demand.
Per data from the Colorado Department of Transportation, 605 people died on Colorado's roads in 2016 – a 24 percent increase over two years. And, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, distraction was a factor about 10 percent of all fatal motor vehicle crashes and 18 percent of all crashes causing injury.
While the perilous impact of smartphones on safe driving has been documented extensively, many drivers believe that integrated systems reduce distraction precisely because they're integrated. "Nothing could be further from the truth," McKinley said. "Some of the latest systems on the market allow you to send text messages, check social media or surf the web. We can all agree that drivers have no business doing any of that behind the wheel."
AAA urges automakers to reduce distractions by designing systems that are no more visually or mentally demanding than listening to the radio or an audiobook – and implores drivers to resist the temptation to engage with these technologies. Researchers found that most infotainment systems tested could easily be made safer by simply following clearly stated federal recommendations such as locking out text messaging, social media and programming navigation while the car is in motion. In 2012, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released a set of voluntary safety guidelines advising automakers to block access to tasks when vehicles are not parked.
A total of 120 drivers ages 21-36 participated in the study of 30 new 2017 model-year vehicles. The latest report is the fifth phase of distraction research from AAA's Center for Driving Safety and Technology. The Center was created in 2013 with the goal of studying the safety implications for how drivers interact with new vehicle technologies when behind the wheel. Visit AAA.com/distraction to learn more.
About AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety
Established in 1947 by AAA, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety is a not-for-profit, publicly funded, 501(c)(3) charitable research and educational organization. The AAA Foundation's mission is to prevent traffic deaths and injuries by conducting research into their causes and by educating the public about strategies to prevent crashes and reduce injuries when they do occur. This research is used to develop educational materials for drivers, pedestrians, bicyclists and other road users. Visit www.AAAFoundation.org.
About AAA Colorado
More than 650,000 members strong, AAA Colorado is the state's greatest advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. As North America's largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 58 million members with travel, insurance, financial, and automotive-related services - as well as member-exclusive savings. For more information, visit Colorado.AAA.com.