STUDY HIGHLIGHTS DANGER IN-CAR INFOTAINMENT SYSTEMS POSE TO IN DRIVERS
A new study suggests that many hands-free, in-vehicle infotainment systems designed to help drivers focus on the road are as distracting as cellphones.
Distracted driving has become a prevalent problem and a serious safety threat, as many people in Indianapolis know. Many drivers may think voice-based in-car technology is the solution to this problem. Advanced new infotainment systems help drivers keep their hands free and their eyes on the road, theoretically reducing the risk of distracted drivingaccidents. Unfortunately, a recent study suggests that these systems are more distracting and dangerous than most drivers believe.
Mentally demanding technology
Two recent studies from the University of Utah and the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety explored the distracting effects of in-car technology and hands-free phone apps. According to Fox News, in one study, researchers found that four of the six in-car systems tested were more distracting to drivers than carrying on a conversation via handheld cellphone. The other study concluded that the hands-free phone app was even more distracting than any of the in-car systems.
Researchers noted that the systems that made frequent errors were typically the most distracting. To successfully use these systems, driver had to focus carefully on phrasing; word choice and order often affected whether the system registered the correct command or message. The errors that occurred often frustrated drivers or created more severe distractions; for instance, one driver had to hurry to stop an accidental call to 911 that the hands-free phone app placed.
These findings suggest that much of the hands-free technology built into electronic devices or vehicles is not advanced enough to let drivers focus primarily on the road. Although these systems may spare drivers from visual distraction, which is a factor known to raise the risk of car accidents, the resulting cognitive distraction may still impede safe driving.
Impacts of cognitive distraction
An AAA study published in 2013 highlights the dangerous ways that cognitive distraction can impact driving performance. Researchers observed participants driving actual vehicles, performing simulations and taking tests in laboratories. They observed that drivers who were engaging in mentally demanding tasks, which ranged from listening to the radio to using speech-to-text systems, showed the following impairments:
- Slower responses to cues in their peripheral visual fields
- Delayed braking during actual in-vehicle tests
- Failure to identify visual cues accurately or register them at all
- Reduced frequency of visual scans
- Decreased activity in certain regions of the brain necessary for driving
Alarmingly, researchers found that using voice-to-text systems was more distracting than listening to audiobooks, listening to the radio, talking to a passenger and conversing via any kind of cellphone. This suggests that other forms of voice-command technology may also be highly distracting.
As more vehicles start featuring built-in hands-free systems, many drivers may begin using these systems and incorrectly believing that doing so is safe. Unfortunately, the results of cognitive distraction studies suggest that this may lead to an increase in distracted driving accidents.
Anyone who has been injured in an accident that an inattentive driver caused should speak to an attorney for advice about pursuing compensation.
Keywords: distracted, driving, texting, accident