In-vehicle technology has come a long way to make driving more convenient and enjoyable. Elaborate navigation systems have transformed the way we drive, making it easier than ever to move between appointments more efficiently. And vehicle infotainment systems provide access to endless music and news with touchscreen convenience.
But with these new technologies has come a sharp increase in distracted driving crashes.
A study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that in-car infotainment and navigation systems take drivers’ attention (and eyes) off the road for dangerous periods of time.
The study looked at the visual and mental demands of using in-vehicle technology, as well as the time it took drivers to complete a task with these systems in 30 new vehicles.
The study included 120 drivers ages 21 to 36. Participants were asked to use voice command, touchscreen and other technologies to make a call, tune the radio, send a text or program their navigation system while driving.
The Dangers of Distracted Driving
Taking your eyes off the road even for two seconds doubles the risk of a crash, according to AAA’s research. A driver driving 25 mph can travel the length of four football fields during the time it takes to simply enter an address into a navigation app.
And just because a form of technology is voice-activated doesn’t necessarily make it safer. Research shows that drivers using in-vehicle technologies including touchscreen navigation features and voice-based text were visually and mentally distracted for more than 40 seconds.
The problem is serious. As many as one in three adults in the U.S. admits to using some kind of technology while driving.
The problem is especially prevalent among younger drivers. Another AAA study found that drivers ages 19 to 24 were 1.6 times as likely (66%) as other drivers (40%) to report having read a text message or e-mail while driving in the last 30 days. Drivers in this age group were also almost twice as likely (59%) as other drivers to report having typed or sent a text message or e-mail while driving.
Social media is another major distraction, with drivers watching and posting to social sites like TikTok, Instagram and Snapchat — and even taking photos and videos — from behind the wheel. A study by AT&T shows that almost four in 10 smartphone users look at or use social media while driving. Almost three in 10 surf the internet and one in 10 engage in video chat — all while on the road.
Though they're the biggest offenders as a group, younger drivers are by no means the only ones guilty of using technology behind the wheel. For many professionals, vehicles have become their mobile offices, enabling everyone from salespeople to delivery drivers to manage their workday more efficiently.
But this convenience doesn’t come without a cost.
As one of the leading causes of collisions leading to injury and death, distracted driving isn't just dangerous — it’s also illegal. Many states have implemented driving laws to target a wide range of distractions behind the wheel.
In some states, writing and reading texts, e-mails and instant messages is illegal. Other states prohibit drivers under a certain age from using any handheld device while driving, and many states have extended the rules to prohibit all kinds of hands-free interactions.
All this isn’t to say that drivers should give up the conveniences of in-dash navigation and infotainment. The AAA researchers also found that most systems could easily be made safer by following federal recommendations such as locking out the ability to program an in-dash navigation system while the car is moving.
Keep Your Eyes Moving®
The best line of defense against these distractions is to have drivers who are well-trained behind the wheel. They also need to be disciplined enough to concentrate on the road and tune out all the possible diversions inside the vehicle.
Key Three of The Smith5Keys® – Keep Your Eyes Moving® – speaks directly to the dangers of distracted driving.
While driving, it's imperative that drivers stay focused on the road. One way for them to do this is to always keep their eyes moving. Scan the roadway — don’t stare. By shifting their eyes every two seconds —and checking their mirrors every five to eight seconds — drivers are able to stay more aware of their surroundings and are better equipped to fight fatigue and remain alert.
Research shows that repetitive motion can send a person into a trance, which is especially dangerous behind the wheel. Consistent eye movement prevents the body from entering a trance state and keeps drivers alert to the conditions ahead — including the movements of other drivers.
Most of today’s vehicles come equipped with in-dash technology, so monitoring your own driving habits isn’t always enough to avoid a crash. To stay safe, drivers must adopt safe technology practices behind the wheel – but also keep their eyes moving and always be alert for other distracted drivers on the road.