AAA: Drivers Increasingly Distracted By Dashboard Technology

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With one in three US adults using touchscreens and other infotainment systems in their vehicle, this new research is aimed to help automakers and system designers improve the functionality of new systems and the demand they place on drivers.

Texting while driving is a well-known distraction for drivers, exponentially increasing the likelihood of a crash.

David Strayer, the lead scientist in the study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, said that most of the States have a rule against texting behind the wheel, and some require hands-free cellphone use.

"Infotainment" technology that is all the rage in new cars are putting drivers in danger, according to new research. They can either keep next generation infotainment products in their cars for driver convenience or modify or eliminate the technology to make the vehicle less likely to have accidents. With sleek touch screens and options to stream music, use navigation and even surf the web, drivers are increasingly focusing on their dashboard instead of the road. Cars used to have a few buttons and knobs.

"It's adding more and more layers of complexity and information at drivers' fingertips without often considering whether it's a good idea to put it at their fingertips", Strayer said.

Programming navigation was the most distracting task, taking an average of 40 seconds for drivers to complete, the group noted. That complexity increases the overall amount of time drivers spend trying to use the systems.

Subaru's infotainment system uses a 6.2-inch touchscreen, though there's also a 7-inch, which still requires the driver to look away from the road.

Members of the auto industry, who strongly discourage texting and driving, was critical of the new research and methods.

New vehicle infotainment systems take drivers' eyes and attention off the road and their hands off the wheel for potentially risky periods of time, according to new research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

Of the 30 vehicle systems AAA studied, 23 required high or very high demand on drivers to operate. Seven were rated "moderate".

Joan Lowy is an Associated Press writer.

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