distracted driving

Car Infotainment Systems: An Underreported Source of Driver Distractions

Each new generation of cars has new safety, entertainment, and productivity features designed to make our time on the road better and less stressful. Unfortunately, sometimes these features backfire and actually make driving more dangerous. Car infotainment systems are one great example of failed safety and productivity features. Research shows that these systems put drivers and others at a greater risk of accidents.

Have you been injured in a distracted driving crash? Don’t wait any longer to get the help you need. Call Burns, Cunningham & Mackey at 800-574-4332 to set up a consultation.

Infotainment Systems Are Increasingly Common

With each new model year released, there are more and more infotainment systems on the road. In theory, this makes sense. Infotainment systems make it easier to use your voice to control your car’s GPS system, phone calls, text messages, and music. You would think that moving to voice-controlled options would decrease distractions and make driving safer.

However, infotainment systems aren’t only voice-controlled. They are also touch-controlled, although they are only intended to be used that way by passengers or when the car is parked. Drivers unfamiliar with voice controls are likely to use touch controls, which is unsafe and similar to using your phone while driving.

Older Drivers More Susceptible to Distractions

Research on car infotainment systems shows that drivers who use these systems are much more distracted than previously thought. Infotainment systems create manual, visual, and cognitive distractions that limit drivers’ ability to pay attention to the road. The research measured different cars’ infotainment systems to see if they created a low level of demand for attention. Almost every system tested presented a high level of demand.

Additional research looked at how car infotainment systems affected drivers of different ages. Across the board, younger drivers had less delayed response times than drivers who were 55 to 75 years old. This may reflect different approaches to and levels of expertise with technology.

Safety Features Don’t Function as Intended

The features built into infotainment systems simply don’t have the intended effect. The goal is to allow drivers to use their voices to control a vehicle’s features. Many drivers, rather than putting time into learning these features, go with what they already know how to use—touchscreen functionality. While most infotainment systems flash a perfunctory warning that features should only be used when the car is not in motion, drivers are unlikely to heed that warning.

Each Task Causes Different Delays

The research measuring drivers’ delays broke down response time into different tasks. Calling and dialing the phone via an infotainment system was the least distracting task, taking younger drivers an average of 17.7 seconds and older drivers 22.4 seconds.

Setting up audio entertainment was the next least distracting, followed by text messaging and entering navigation commands. Some infotainment systems are littered with clunky menus, difficult-to-understand directions, and other distractions that waste precious seconds when someone is driving. In others, the voice command system is poorly set up and maintained, leading to frustrated drivers who have to repeat their commands multiple times before they are understood.

Protecting Yourself and Avoiding Distractions

What does this mean for you as a driver and as a passenger? If you use an infotainment system while driving, avoid using any sort of touchscreen functionality. Doing so adds manual distractions to the cognitive and visual distractions already presented by these systems.

Learn how to use the voice controls of your infotainment system while the car is parked, rather than trying to learn on the go when you are already on the road. Spending a few minutes mastering these features before you’re driving can make the road a much safer place.

If you are a passenger, try to help the driver whenever possible. If they are struggling with the voice features of their infotainment system, consider offering help with the touchscreen functionality so they can focus on driving.

Involved in a Crash? Call Burns, Cunningham & Mackey

Distracted driving makes the roads incredibly dangerous for drivers, passengers, and pedestrians. If you’re hurt in a distracted driving accident, the team at Burns, Cunningham & Mackey is here for you. Give us a call at 800-574-4332 or get in touch online to set up a meeting now.

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