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