The Dangers of the Touchscreen
New cars are safer than ever before, but the way we drive them? Not so much. According to a new study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, new driver technology and high-tech infotainment systems can distract drivers for as long 40 seconds at a time. And that's troubling because many experts say that two seconds worth of distraction is enough to double your chances of getting into an accident.
The research, performed by the University of Utah, studied what it takes to operate both voice and touchscreen features in 30 new vehicles, and gave them distraction rankings ranging from 'low-demand,' which is the equivalent to listening to the radio, to 'very high-demand,' which researchers deemed equivalent to balancing a checkbook.
Not surprisingly, nearly half of the infotainment systems earned a 'very high-demand' rating while the rest of the 18 were ranked as 'high' or 'moderate'. Of the systems, entering an address into the navigation system proved to be one of the most dangerous tasks, with drivers requiring an average of 40 seconds of eyes off the road.
If you're moving at 25 miles per hour, that's the equivalent of two football fields. Now, some may argue that automakers don't allow these features to be in use while the vehicle is moving, but that was only true for about half of the models tested.
So what exactly is going on? AAA President and CEO Marshall Doney points to systems that don't focus on driving, “Some of the latest systems on the market now include functions unrelated to the core task of driving, like sending text messages, checking social media or surfing the web — tasks we have no business doing behind the wheel."
We agree. Anything that takes your eyes off the road is a hazard to you, your passengers, and everyone else out there. With touch screens, you can't feel what you're doing like you can with good old-fashioned buttons or knobs and you're forced to look away from the road to see where you're about to touch. So, automakers, if you're listening, do us a favor and don't deny us buttons!
What are your thoughts? Do you have a high tech car that's not as easy to use as you thought it might be? Let us know about your experiences in the comments below!