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Does vehicle technology help or hinder distraction?

For many years now, people have heard or read a lot of news and discussion about the dangers of the handheld use of electronic devices while driving. While driver distractions may involve the need to take a hand off of the steering wheel, gear shift or other essential driving feature, they can also be visual or cognitive. A distraction that involves two or all three of these factors can be among the most dangerous. 

Forbes notes that any distraction lasting two minutes doubles the accident risk for that driver. Now, a study of in-vehicle infotainment systems has found that these features can be highly distracting. While the report of the study’s findings emphasizes the risk to older drivers, the results show that even younger, more tech-savvy drivers may be extremely distracted by these features. 

The study was conducted by AAA and evaluated the time it took drivers to plot a route map, send a text message, make a phone call or program a radio or other audio using an infotainment system. For drivers between 55 and 75, the least amount of time required for any task was 22.4 seconds to make a call. For drivers between 21 and 36, making a call also took less time than other tasks but still took their attention away from driving for a full 17.7 seconds. Programming navigation took 31.4 seconds for the younger drivers and 40 seconds for the boomers. 

Frustration levels with systems that did not always recognize voice commands only added to the distraction these infotainment systems caused for drivers, further increasing the chance of getting into an accident.