Are You Infotained? You Might Also Be Distracted.

by Terry Bryant

In-vehicle information systems, commonly called “infotainment systems,” were designed to make the lives of motorists more convenient. These systems assist drivers with making phone calls, sending text messages, getting directions and listening to the radio and other audio. However, while they offer convenience, do they also cause distraction as drivers press buttons, touch screens and give voice commands, diverting drivers’ attention from the road?

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety and the University of Utah performed a recent study to try to answer that question. The study looked at several different infotainment systems. It compared “native” infotainment systems, which are those systems that are built into cars by their manufacturers, with systems that can be purchased and paired with smartphones. The smartphone systems included Apple’s CarPlay and Google’s Android Auto. Five vehicles from model years 2017-2018 were tested in the study. The vehicles featured native infotainment systems as well as interfaces for pairing with the smartphone systems. Sixty-four drivers participated in the study and were tasked with selecting audio entertainment, programming navigation, calling and dialing, and texting.

The results showed that while neither systems were ideal when it comes to safety, the built-in systems were significantly more complicated and demanding to use than the smartphone systems. Native systems were classified as having a high level of demand, while the smartphone systems were more flexible and easier to use, but were still classified as having a moderate level of demand.

Study data showed that CarPlay and Android Auto were 24% faster to use than native systems for phone calls and 31 percent faster for navigation programming. This equates to five seconds and 15 seconds faster respectively. This difference in system speeds is significant. Drivers who take their eyes off the road for more than two seconds double their risk of crashing, according to the AAA Foundation.

What does all this mean for drivers? The AAA Foundation cautions that just because a new car comes with a built-in entertainment system or is compatible to use with a smartphone-based system, this doesn’t mean that these systems have been proven safe to use while driving. Improvements to designs still need to be made to reduce demands on drivers, thus reducing distractions and accidents. It’s recommended that drivers use the systems only for emergencies or urgent purposes.

Accidents caused by distracted drivers are a serious problem. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), 3,450 people died because of distracted driving in 2016. Hundreds of thousands more were injured. Distracted driving is classified as anything that takes the driver’s eyes off the road and hands off the steering wheel, including texting, talking on the phone and using navigation and entertainment systems. Not surprisingly, sending or reading texts, which take a driver’s eyes off the road for an average of five seconds, are the biggest contributors to distracted driver fatalities. According to the NHTSA, at 55 mph, that is like driving the length of an entire football field with eyes closed.

If you’ve been in an accident caused by distracted driving, you should know that you have legal options. Terry Bryant Accident & Injury Law have helped clients across Texas get the compensation they deserve after being injured. Contact us today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.