Vehicle Infotainment Systems and Other In-Car Technology May Increase Distracted Driving

finger on touchscreen in vehicleEver wonder if all the touchscreens and interactive features in newer cars is contributing to distracted driving?

Research from the late 1980s indicates that the poor performance of Apache helicopter pilots was the result of too many screens and devices demanding their attention. These pilots had to undergo considerable training prior to operating these high-tech aircraft. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume the numerous touch screens, interactive maps and other features in modern cars may be overwhelming for many drivers.

It is also important to note that research on Apache helicopter pilots led to a redesign of cockpits to help pilots stay focused.

According to David Strayer, one of the cognitive psychologists who was involved in the Apache research, cars are being loaded with instruments that are “overloading the driver just like we were overloading the helicopter pilots.”

The same discoveries about pilots being overloaded can be applied to drivers of heavily equipped motor vehicles, according to Strayer.

Unfortunately, auto manufacturers and smartphone designers have ignored this research and continue to add even more features. This constant influx of new technology may encourage distracted driving.

“They’ve created a candy store of distraction,” said Strayer.

It is worth noting that some of the innovative new features include blind-spot detection and lane-departure warnings. However, even with these new safety systems, we continue to see a rise in highway deaths.

While there are many reasons for crash fatalities, one of the biggest culprits is distracted driving. In fact, a Nationwide Insurance poll shows agents believe half of all crashes are caused by distracted driving.

The problem may be worse because people often do not report distracted driving. In many states, using a smartphone while driving carries penalties, particularly when distracted driving results in a crash. Those who readily admit to distracted driving could be held financially liable for damages following a crash.

People continue to engage in distracted driving, despite the statistics showing the dangers and consequences. A State Farm survey from earlier this year found more than half of the drivers interviewed often or always text and drive. The survey also found 43 percent of these drivers watched videos on their cellphones or even did video chats.

Auto manufacturers and smartphone makers tend to think about the problem of distracted driving as a problem related to cellphones. That is why they try to integrate the functionality of cellphones into vehicle dashboards and allow for voice recognition.

However, this technology does not seem to eliminate the problem. In fact, it may be making things worse. Even changing music or adjusting the air conditioning via voice commands can be just as dangerous as using a smartphone behind the wheel.

Strayer and his team found that voice commands can significantly increase a driver’s cognitive load. Studies show that distracted driving is not just about your eyes drifting away from the road. If your mind is not on the task at hand, such as driving, it can be just as dangerous. You cannot ask your brain to do too many things at once.

Another factor to consider is that all the distractions being built into vehicles may make drivers believe distracted driving is OK.

“People think, ‘It came with the car, it must be safe,’” said the father of a daughter who was killed in a distracted driving crash in 2016.

Injured by a Distracted Driver? Call TSR Today

Our firm has secured millions on behalf of crash victims in Minnesota, and we are ready to discuss your situation in a free consultation. Our Bloomington-based vehicle accident lawyers take cases on contingency, which means no upfront fees or legal obligations.

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Police Stepping Up Enforcement of Hands-Free Law During Distracted Driving Awareness Month

road sign against texting and drivingOn Friday, Minnesota police and state troopers began their monthlong push to educate the public about the dangers of distracted driving and issue warnings and tickets to violators. April is National Distracted Driving Awareness month, when Minnesota and several other states look to crack down on distracted driving.

Under state law, drivers are prohibited from holding a phone. They can use devices that respond to voice commands or a single touch to activate to:

  • Make phone calls
  • Send text messages
  • Listen to music or podcasts
  • Get directions to where they are going

However, the law makes it illegal to use the internet, post on social media, stream video or read or write an email while behind the wheel. The first time a driver is caught breaking the law he or she will be fined $100. Subsequent offenses carry a $300 fine plus court costs.

The hands-free law passed in 2019 and it may have contributed to a decline in distracted driving deaths. In 2021, the number of deaths and serious injuries from distracted driving crashes hit a four-year low — There were 26 distracted driving deaths and 101 serious injuries.

All month long there will be public service announcements sent out on TV and social media and posted on billboards. U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar is speaking at a virtual press conference for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The goal of the press conference is to highlight law enforcement strategies for holding distracted drivers accountable and prevent this dangerous behavior.

In previous years, law enforcement efforts only lasted a few days or weeks, but this year it will last the entire month.

Enforcement and education campaigns have been proven to change behavior, according to Mike Hanson, director of Minnesota’s Office of Traffic Safety. Distracted driving crashes still make up about one in nine crashes in the state.

Campaigns like Distracted Driving Awareness month are also necessary because drivers keep coming up with strategies for breaking the law. For example, drivers may hide phones behind gloves, lean them against the steering wheel or put them on their lap.

Injured in a Crash? Call TSR Injury Law

If you were injured or lost a loved one in a car crash that involved distracted driving, give our firm a call today. There are no upfront fees and no obligation to hire our firm after your initial legal consultation.

Our Bloomington vehicle accident lawyers have secured millions on behalf of crash victims in Minnesota and are ready to help you during this challenging time. We do not get paid unless we recover compensation on your behalf.

Give our firm a call today for assistance. (612) TSR-TIME