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Are Your Dashboard Devices to Blame for Distracted Driving?


Two studies released in August appeared to confirm that new automotive technology is decreasing car accidents. Data showed that lane-keeping and blind-spot monitoring technology were responsible for lower car accident statistics from 2009 to 2015.

However, not all automotive technologies are created equal. The AAA’s Center for Driving Safety & Technology recently discovered that dashboard technology that focuses on “infotainment” may in fact increase distracted driving, leading to more car accidents.

How Dashboard Screens Distract Drivers


Many new vehicles come standard with various dashboard screens that both inform and entertain the driver and passengers. Some information is necessary and not all that different from less advanced models. After all, changing from an analog speedometer to a digital screen that shows your speed is more of an aesthetic change rather than a new, distracting technology. However, some screens require more of your attention than others.

Take, for example, dashboard touchscreens that have all but replaced car radios. These screens allow users to search for and skip songs. Their functions may resemble car radios, but the touchscreen introduces a new dilemma. Many drivers have absentmindedly reached over to skip a song and knew which button to press because of the way it felt or because of its position next to other distinctly shaped buttons, such as the car AC controls. Touchscreens get rid of this ability to search by feel and instead require drivers to take their eyes off of the road, even for just a second, to find the button they’re looking for.

Dashboard screens also typically combine many features into one device. A couple decades ago, you had a car radio for your music, a physical map to figure out where you needed to go, and maybe an early cellphone to call home in case of an emergency. Today, you can choose your music, map your route, and call or text a friend all from the same dashboard device.

The Dangers of Distracted Driving


Many people feel like they can multitask and use their dashboard devices without decreasing their ability to drive safely. That’s simply not the case.

The AAA’s Center for Driving Safety and Technology tested 30 new 2017 models and found that more than two-thirds of them had dashboard device systems that were rated as having a “high demand” or “very high demand” on drivers’ attention. These systems come built into the standard models. No model received an acceptable score of “low demand” on drivers’ attention.

The consequences of distracted driving can be devastating. The study found that drivers were distracted for more than 40 seconds while using infotainment systems.

There are three types of distracted driving: manual, visual, and cognitive. Many infotainment systems attempt to decrease manual distractions by employing hands-free technology or voice-activated devices. Automakers insist that their dashboard devices discourage drivers from taking their hands off of the wheel to check their phones or even change the radio station. With voice activation and buttons built right into the steering wheel, automakers try to keep distractions down.

However, most automakers aren’t addressing visual and cognitive distractions, which are just as dangerous as manual ones. Visual distractions involve taking your eyes off of the road. Cognitive distractions take your mind off of driving to focus on another task. The AAA’s study focused specifically on visual and cognitive demand instead of manual. These new models are not only ignoring the problem of visual and cognitive distractions; they’re exacerbating it.

Help from an Indiana Car Accident Lawyer

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 94 percent of all severe motor vehicle crashes in the U.S. are caused by human error. In 2015 alone, distracted driving claimed 3,477 lives and injured 391,000 people.

Although some new automotive technology can decrease car accidents, others can contribute to the epidemic of distracted driving. If you’ve been injured in a car accident because of a distracted driver, Hensley Legal Group can help. Call today or contact us online for a free case review.