Research has found that new vehicle’s built-in infotainment systems are having the same adverse effect on drivers as handheld cellphones. According to a study sponsored by the American Automobile Association (“AAA”), technology found in new cars, including multilayered menus on large display screens, voice-recognition commands and backup, side-view and 360 degree cameras, are adversely effecting drivers.
AAA STUDY OF THE VISUAL AND COGNITIVE DEMAND OF INFOTAINMENT SYSTEMS
David Strayer, a professor and director of the University of Utah’s Center for the Prevention of Distracted Driver, along with his team, have been studying the effects of in-vehicle technology on the ability of the brain to function. They have found that technology introduced to improve vehicle satisfaction is essentially overloading brain mechanisms and causing driver distraction.
New vehicles feature Bluetooth links to smartphones, audio controls, GPS navigation systems, external camera views, data regarding fuel consumption and distance to destination, lane-keep assist and controls for the vehicle’s climate system. These features may include controls that utilize touch screens, rotary dials, voice commands and handwriting with a finger on a screen.
Drivers are becoming distracted by having to take their eyes off of the road to look at the infotainment controls and read messages. Studies have found that after looking away from the road for 2.5 seconds the risk of a crash increases. More often than not, drivers are spending 40 seconds looking at their vehicle’s infotainment systems.
Strayer’s team also found that drivers are becoming distracted as a result of the “mental effort” needed to use their vehicle’s technology. The mechanism in the brain that is used to decipher the vehicle’s controls is also required to make plans and decisions while driving. According to Strayer, “[u]sing your voice to communicate with computers requires a great deal of mental energy”.
AAA used Strayer’s research to release a ranking of vehicles based upon the level of distraction created by their infotainment systems. None of the vehicles tested were ranked as having a “low” demand on a driver’s attention. However, there were a number of vehicles with infotainment systems found to require a “moderate” demand on driver’s attention.
SENIORS ARE EVEN MORE DISTRACTED BY VEHICLE INFOTAINMENT SYSTEMS
Strayer’s team also studied age-related differences and the demands of a vehicle’s infotainment system. They studied younger drivers (aged 21 to 36) and older drivers (aged 55 to 75) in six different 2018 motor vehicles. While driving, drivers were asked to perform basic tasks on the vehicle’s infotainment system, including changing the radio station, sending a text message, making a phone call and entering a destination into the navigation system.
In our tests, everyone was distracted by these systems, but older drivers were distracted for much longer periods of time. People my age struggled to use these things and were oftentimes frustrated. They’d say that it makes no sense to be doing this while you’re driving.
Strayer’s team found that older drivers, on average, took their eyes off the road for eight seconds longer than younger drivers. They also found that older drivers took longer to complete tasks in all categories. Younger drivers, for example, took 28 seconds to send a text message using the infotainment system in comparison to 34 seconds for older drivers.
Strayer provided an explanation as to why older drivers become more distracted:
As we get older, we’re slower, and we tend to have more difficulty with complex interactions. And older drivers are probably not as familiar with tech in general – there’s still a market for flip phones, and that market isn’t people in their twenties.
DISTRACTED DRIVING IN CALGARY DROPS IN 2019
Calgary police issued 36% less distracted driving tickets in 2019 compared to 2018. There were 3,783 tickets handed out for distracted driving in 2019, down from 5,944 tickets handed out in 2018.
Although it is unclear which factors have played a role in the decrease of tickets being issued for distracted driving, it remains clear that distracted driving continues to cause more collisions than impaired driving and is easily preventable.
One factor that may have caused the decrease in the number of distracted drivers in Calgary is the hefty fine and demerit points for those who are issued a ticket. In Alberta, distracted drivers are subject to a $287 fine and three demerit points. However, these are the lowest fines in Canada, except for Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Nunavut (which does not have any distracted driving legislation).
Saskatchewan has recently raised its fines to $580 for a distracted driving offence. They also have escalating penalties for second and third offences within a 12-month period, which will cost drivers $1,400 and $2,100 respectively, plus a seven-day vehicle seizure.
If you or a loved one have been injured in a motor vehicle accident that was caused by a distracted driver, you may be entitled to compensation for the damages you have suffered. It is important that you call the lawyers at Cuming & Gillespie LLP promptly so we can help you understand your rights and the potential to recover compensation for your injuries. Please contact the experienced personal injury lawyers at Cuming & Gillespie LLP online or by calling 403-571-0555 for a free consultation today.