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Nov/Dec 2017 Issue

In-vehicle infotainment systems can place excessive demands on drivers, AAA Foundation study finds

New vehicle infotainment systems offer an array of high-tech features, but motorists should be cautious of using them.

Many of these systems take drivers’ eyes and attention off the road and hands off the wheel for potentially dangerous periods of time, according to a new study from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. AAA has conducted this new research to help automakers and system designers improve the functionality of new infotainment systems and their demand on drivers.

In the study, which evaluated 30 new 2017 vehicles, drivers used voice command, touch screen and other interactive technologies to make a call, send a text message, tune the radio, or program navigation, all while driving. Drivers using voice-based and touch screen technology experienced very high levels of visual and mental demands for more than 40 seconds when completing tasks like programming navigation or sending a text message. Just two seconds of not watching the road doubles the risk for a crash, according to previous research.

The study examined not only visual (eyes-off-road) and cognitive (mental) demand, but also accounted for how long it took drivers to complete tasks using vehicle technology.
Programming navigation was the most distracting task, taking an average of 40 seconds to complete. That’s the same amount of time it would take to travel the length of four football fields while driving at 25 mph, which is too much time without proper focus on the road. Programming navigation while driving was available in 12 of the 30 vehicle systems tested.

Researchers found that most infotainment systems tested could easily be made safer by simply following federal recommendations to lock out text messaging, social media, and programming navigation while the car is in motion.

With nearly 40 percent of U.S. drivers using infotainment systems while driving, AAA cautions drivers that using these technologies while behind the wheel can have dangerous consequences.

“Some of the latest systems on the market now include functions unrelated to the core task of driving like sending text messages, checking social media, or surfing the Web — tasks we have no business doing behind the wheel,” said AAA President and CEO Marshall Doney.

Researchers developed a rating scale to measure the demands experienced by drivers using each vehicle’s infotainment system. A low level of demand equates to listening to the radio, while very high demand is equivalent to balancing a checkbook while driving. AAA believes a safe in-vehicle technology system should not exceed a low level of demand.

None of the 30 vehicle infotainment systems produced low demand.

To learn about the systems in the evaluated vehicles, go to



To stay safe, know how to act when getting pulled over

For most drivers, getting pulled over by law enforcement happens so rarely that they don’t know how to react, but AAA has tips to make the interaction go smoothly and safely.

When an officer pulls someone over, they don’t know if the driver poses a serious threat. But knowing how to act — including what to do and what not to do — can help minimize the officer’s safety concerns and help prevent the traffic stop from escalating into a dangerous situation.

Among the tips found in AAA’s newest brochure, Getting Pulled Over, is to pull over slowly and in a safe location out of traffic. A driver should put the vehicle in park with their foot off the brake pedal and remain in the vehicle unless otherwise instructed.

Motorists should also:
• Roll the window down
• Turn the radio off
• Keep your safety belt on
• Position your hands at the top of the steering wheel so they can be seen
When speaking with the officer, be polite and reach for your license only after directed to do so. And do not drive away until the officer says it’s OK.

For a free copy of Getting Pulled Over, send a stamped, self-addressed business-size envelope to: AAA, Getting Pulled Over, 12901 N. Forty Drive, St. Louis, MO, 63141.


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