Today’s cars allow drivers to do a lot of things behind the wheel—perhaps too much, and that could compromise safety. According to a study completed by researchers at the University of Utah with the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, touchscreens and dashboard tech toys could be dangerous contributors to distracted driving. Have the addition of more screens and features now come at a cost to safe driving?

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Eyes On The Road And Hands On The Wheel

Currently, most in-dash navigation and entertainment systems do not allow drivers to complete certain tasks while the vehicle is in motion. Newer cars may not have that restriction and would allow drivers to enter GPS locations, flip through screens, and engage in other touch screen features that would take their eyes off the road and hands off the wheel for extended periods of time.

Raising Risks Of A Crash

In the study completed by AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety and the University of Utah, researchers found that even ordinary touchscreen interactions had drivers distracted for over 24 seconds. Some tasks even took up to 40 seconds, which is a dangerously long time considering that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has found that drivers who take their eyes off the road for just two seconds double their risks of getting into an accident. Even when features were activated by voice alone, drivers tended to interact with more features and focus less on the act of driving itself.

More Features, More Demands On Attention

In just the last several years, basic navigation, radio, mobile phone and other automotive dashboard features have become increasingly complex and more demanding of a driver’s focus. According to cognitive and neural scientist, David Strayer of the University of Utah, instead of simplifying the driving experience, technology has made things far too complicated. “Steering wheels that have 19 multi-function buttons. We have made what were relatively simple tasks really complex. We’ve really gone in the wrong direction in terms of some of the technology.”

Some vehicles allow internet searches or interaction with social media The worst among the demanding optional technology is navigational equipment

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Does The Auto Industry Need To Simplify

The auto industry has defended the addition of enhanced, feature-packed dash touchscreens and programs as safer alternatives to mobile devices that commonly distract drivers. AAA has argued that automakers need to do a better job improving user interfaces so that these systems are less of a compromise to safe and attentive driving. While a majority of U.S. adults have said they want new technologies incorporated into vehicles, less than a quarter feel that systems work as well as they could.


What do you think about the infiltration of dashboard tech systems and its impact on a driver’s focus? Comment and tell us your thoughts on this issue.

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