Guess Which is the Most Distracting Feature in Your Car?

Cherryl Anne Cruz
Mand driving a car

You only need to look in front of you–and no, it’s not your mobile phone. According to AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, studies show that advanced and more functional infotainment systems installed in recent vehicles add the most distractions to drivers on the road. And take this — even the voice-activated ones are included here.

“Some in-vehicle technology can create unsafe situations for drivers on the road by increasing the time they spend with their eyes and attention off the road and hands off the wheel,” according to David Yang, the AAA Foundation’s executive director.

The ironic thing is infotainment systems were created to prevent distracted driving in the first place.  But many of these systems sometimes can be too complex for beginners to understand, making drivers frustrated and distracted when they don’t work properly.

Here’s one classic example: voice recognition features that mistakenly use the wrong words, contacts, or location.

“Drivers want technology that is safe and easy to use, but many of the features added to infotainment systems today have resulted in overly complex and sometimes frustrating user experiences for drivers,” said Marshall Doney, AAA’s president and CEO. “

AAA collaborated with the University of Utah to study the visual (eyes off road), cognitive (mental) demand, and the average duration it took for drivers to use the infotainment system for different tasks. They included activating voice commands or using the touch screen when making a call, sending a text message, changing a radio station, or programming the navigation system while driving down the road.

They used 30 different 2017 vehicles in the experiment, and a total of 120 drivers aged 21-36 participated in the study

Their study revealed that the most distracting task is programming navigation, which takes drivers around 40 seconds to finish. According to AAA’s study, this feature came up in 12 of the 30 cars they tested for distraction.

Note that 40 seconds is a long time. According to AAA, this is like “trying to balance a checkbook while driving.” It only takes around two seconds of inattentiveness to double your risk of getting into a vehicular accident, so 40 seconds of inattentive driving is not to be taken lightly.

“Moderate” to “Very High Distractions”

Infotainment systems that are ranked “moderate” in distraction were in some of these vehicles:

  • Toyota Sienna XLE
  • Toyota Corolla SE
  • Toyota Camry SE
  • Hyundai Santa Fe Sport
  • Ford F250 XLT

Car infotainments systems that ranked “high” included:

  • Toyota Rav 4 XLE
  • Nissan Maxima SV
  • Kia Sorento LX
  • Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited
  • Jeep Compass Sport
  • Infiniti Q50 Premium
  • Hyundai Sonata Base

And those that ranked  “very high” in distraction were in the following vehicles:

  • Volvo XC60 T5 Inscription
  • Tesla Model S
  • Subaru Crosstrek Premium
  • Mazda3 Touring
  • Honda Civic Touring
  • GMC Yukon SLT
  • Ford Mustang GT
  • Chrysler 300 C
  • Audi Q7 QPP

Lessening the Risk

With the loopholes found in today’s infotainment system, is there any way to lessen the risk? Yes there is, according to Marie Dodds, Public Affairs Director for AAA Oregon / Idaho.

“There should be voluntary guidelines that say drivers shouldn’t be able to access certain feature when the vehicle is in motion,” she said.

“And drivers should minimize distractions by programming navigation before hitting the road, and avoiding sending text messages or checking social media while driving. Just because technologies come installed in a vehicle doesn’t mean they’re safe to use while driving.”

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