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AAA: ‘Infotainment’ systems’ design forces older drivers to take eyes off road too long

Car accident attorneysTake your eyes off the road for two seconds to tune the radio or check the GPS and you double the risk of a crash. For older drivers, device distractions can increase this danger.

That’s because when it comes to navigating in-vehicle infotainment systems, older drivers removed their attention from the road over eight seconds longer than younger drivers, a AAA study found.

Why do these systems cause so many distractions?

“Infotainment” is the merging of “information” and “entertainment.” According to Merriam-Webster, “People in the automotive industry have recently begun using ‘infotainment’ to refer to the state-of-the-art multimedia technologies (such as GPS systems and Internet radio) now available to drivers at the push of a button.”

Using these devices often requires more than just pushing a button, and this complexity and the poor design of some of these systems is harmful instead of helpful for older drivers.

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety conducted a study with University of Utah researchers to test the visual and cognitive demand required to use infotainment systems. The study that found in-vehicle infotainment systems distracting for older drivers used six 2018 vehicles.

Study participants in two age groups (21-36 and 55-75) were required to use voice commands, touch screens and other interactive technologies to make a call, send a text message, tune the radio, or program navigation, all while driving.

A total of 128 drivers participated in the study. The AAA evaluation was done on a two-mile stretch of residential road with a posted speed limit of 25 mph and generally low traffic. A study representative rode in the passenger seat during the drives to monitor safety and collect data. Participants drove the route and repeated certain tasks several times on each drive.

Researchers found that the technology created potentially unsafe distractions for all drivers, but the risk is more pronounced for older drivers. They took 4.7 seconds to 8.6 seconds longer than younger drivers to use audio entertainment, dial a phone, send a text message and conduct navigation. Older drivers also experienced slower response times and increased visual distractions than younger drivers because of the complex design of the technology.

 Especially Distracting For Older Drivers

The study  found it took older drivers longer than younger ones to conduct steps like:

  • Audio entertainment: younger 18 seconds, older 25.4 seconds
  • Calling and dialing: younger 17.7 seconds, older 22.4 seconds
  • Texting: younger 27.7 seconds, older 33.8 seconds
  • Navigation entry: younger 31.4 seconds, older 40 seconds

AAA officials said the problem was not age but flawed designs leading to in-vehicle infotainment systems being more distracting for older drivers. Some systems included multiple menus and cumbersome voice command functions that significantly reduced older drivers’ ability to complete seemingly simple tasks easily.

The following design and driver-behavior changes could increase safety for all drivers:

  • Improve voice-command technology
  • Simplify software menus
  • Position system controls to allow drivers to keep their eyes on the road
  • Avoid operating in-vehicle infotainment technology while driving, except for legitimate emergencies
  • Practice using the voice command and touch screen functions when not driving to build comfort in case emergency use is required
  • Avoid vehicles that require use of a center console controller when using the infotainment system. These kinds of systems are especially distracting and potentially dangerous

Contact the Beaufort, South Carolina car accident attorneys at Twenge + Twombley Law Firm today if you were hurt in a crash with a distracted driver.

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