Danger behind the wheel: High tech distractions

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

The researchers found that entering a destination into the navigation system was the most demanding of drivers' attention, followed by texting.

The study found drivers using voice-based and touch screen features were distracted for more than 40 seconds when completing tasks such sending a text or programming navigation. That's the same amount of time it would take to travel the length of four football fields while driving at 25 miles per hour, which is too much time and too much distance traveled without proper focus on the road. The researchers tested 30 different 2017 vehicles from a wide variety of carmakers, and found that 23 of these had "high" or "very high" demand on the driver-including the Tesla Model S, the Honda Civic Touring, and the Ford Fusion Titanium.

Previous AAA research indicates one in three USA adults use infotainment systems while driving. The drivers were between 21 and 36 years old.

Fatal crashes are on the rise in the USA, and distracted driving is a major reason for the increase, the foundation believes. The technology is typically presented as a safer alternative to using a phone while driving.

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Navigation distracted drivers for an average of 40 seconds.

The technology in our vehicles today makes it easier than ever to be constantly connected.

These new uses bring nothing in terms of safety for the driver. Automakers should also design infotainment systems so that they require no more attention to use than listening to the radio or an audiobook, it said. 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. It wants auto makers to disable some features such as programming a navigation route while the vehicle is moving.

Carmakers are cramming more and more technology into our cars-including the ones we still have to drive.

AAA also indicated that driver frustration with these infotainments systems increases cognitive demand and thus raises the potential for distracted driving.

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