Study: Hands-Free Technology Dangerously Distracting to Drivers

Many auto manufacturers tout the use of hands-free technology as a “safer” way for drivers to engage in electronic functions behind the wheel. traffic2

But the reality is, there is no safe way to drive when you aren’t 100 percent focused on the road. Time and again, researchers have concluded that humans are unable to divide their attention among multiple high-level functions (i.e., texting and driving) and do both well. We’re simply no good at that kind of multitasking, no matter how much we tell ourselves otherwise.

Now, a new study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety indicates that hands-free technologies – the kind that help us dial a phone number or switch the music selection or check or location without needing to physically turn the dial or type the characters – is dangerously distracting for drivers. Worse, these potentially unsafe distractions can command our attention for as long as 27 seconds after it’s over.

These results raise unexpected concerns regarding the use of vehicle information systems and phones while simultaneously operating a vehicle. The implications are that motorists suffering the lingering effects of these distractions have the potential to miss:

  • Stop signs
  • Traffic signals
  • Pedestrians
  • Other vehicles

Obviously, careful notice of each of these is imperative to safe driving. The danger is startling when you consider that in that short 27 time frame, drivers moving at 25 mph will travel the length of three football fields. Even when researchers analyzed the in-vehicle technology systems deemed “least distracting,” the lingering impairment lasted for 15 seconds after use.

Researchers rated the in-vehicle systems in terms of the least to most distracting. Among the worst offenders:

  • Mazda 6
  • Microsoft Cortana
  • Hyundai Sonata
  • Chrysler 200c
  • Nissan Altima

On a 5-point scale of distraction, 5 being the highest, researchers rated these vehicle infotainment systems at a 3.7 or higher. Most were “high distraction,” while the highest-ranking Mazda 6 was rated “very high distraction.”

Several of these are voice-activated systems, which the public has been erroneously led to believe are safe. In fact, they are not.

Charlotte car accident attorneys are familiar with the role distraction plays in serious crashes. Distraction accounts for more than 3,200 fatal crashes a year and some 425,000 injuries.

When it comes to injury litigation, proof that a driver was texting can be used as evidence of negligence. Negligence is the failure to use reasonable care when a duty is owed to another person. Someone who is driving owes a duty to passengers and all other road users to obey traffic laws and act with reasonable care. Distraction is known to impair drivers in much the same way alcohol does. Further, certain types of distraction are against the law in North Carolina.

In this state, bus drivers and those under age 18 are banned from use of all cell phones, while all other legal adult drivers are banned solely from texting while driving.

There is as of yet no law in North Carolina that addresses the in-vehicle infotainment systems that are built into the dashboards and steering wheels. With research like this, it’s plausible that the issues raise could result in heightened scrutiny of these technologies.

Contact the Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:

New Hands-free Technologies Pose Hidden Dangers for Drivers, Oct. 22, 2015, Press Release, AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety

More Blog Entries:

Riley v. Ford Motor Co. – South Carolina Supreme Court Weighs Defective Auto Parts Case, Oct. 19, 2015, Charlotte Car Accident Attorney Blog

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