Distracted Driving: Plugging In, Zoning Out

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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.

Strayer and his team of researchers at the University of Utah were commissioned by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety to examine the time it took drivers to complete a task using the infotainment systems in dozens of 2017 vehicles.

The knobs and buttons that were once ubiquitous in cars have given way to a touch screen that allows drivers to use social media, email, and text - but the technology can be complicated to use. "Consumers tell us they want more and more of these features in their vehicles", Krebs said, "but accidents are going up, and exactly for this reason - distracted driving".

New so-called "infotainment" systems in cars may distract drivers for "potentially unsafe periods of time", AAA said in a study released today.

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According to AAA, looking away from the road for even two seconds doubles the likelihood of a crash.

According to a study by the American Automobile Association Foundation, usually the driver of a vehicle moving at the speed of 25 miles per hour takes somewhere around 40 seconds to program the navigation system of the auto. And, the infotainment system should be designed in a way that drivers don't have to focus much on them to operate. In 2012, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released a set of voluntary safety guidelines advising automakers to block access to tasks when vehicles are not parked.

The study found drivers were visually distracted for more than 40 seconds when programming the navigation system or sending a text message.

When driving at 25 miles per hour, a driver can travel the length of four football fields during the time it could take to enter a destination in navigation. A "low" level of demand equates to listening to the radio or an audiobook, while "very high" demand is equivalent to trying to balance a checkbook while driving. Strayer says the "explosion of technology" has made things worse.

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