Safe, responsible drivers have largely moved away from texting or emailing while driving, and have adopted hands-free technologies, either via voice-recognition software coming installed in phones, or via increasingly-common in-vehicle entertainment systems. One team of researchers looked at the effect that the use of these systems had on drivers’ focus on the road, and found that use of voice commands may not always be as safe as we’d hoped.
A team composed of experts from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety and researchers from the University of Utah compared ten in-vehicle entertainment systems in 2015 models of popular vehicles to determine whether there was a measurable difference in the impact those systems had on the attention of the driver. First, the researchers established a 1-5 scale of distraction, monitoring the impact that completion of certain activities had on the drivers’ focus to compare to using the in-vehicle systems. Driving while entirely focused on the road scored a 1 on the scale; driving while listening to the radio, a 1.2; and driving while memorizing a list of words and solving a math problem, a 5. The team found that, among the ten systems tested, the most distracting was that installed in the Mazda 6, which earned a score of 4.6. The least problematic system was that in the Chevy Equinox, earning a relatively-modest 2.6 on the scale.
Even when using the least distracting of the in-vehicle entertainment systems, the impact on driver attention was substantial. On average, after entering a command into a voice-activated system, the driver remained unfocused on the road for 27 seconds, and even the least-distracting system required an average of 15 seconds of readjustment for the driver after use. Traveling at 25 mph, a driver could cover a length of road equivalent to three football fields in that time, or get in a serious car accident. David Strayer, one of the University of Utah researchers, explained, “The lasting effects of mental distraction pose a hidden and pervasive danger that would likely come as a surprise to most drivers. The results indicate that motorists could miss stop signs, pedestrians, and other vehicles while the mind is readjusting to the task of driving.”
If you or a loved one have been injured in an Alabama car accident by a distracted driver, contact Montgomery’s skilled personal injury law firm McPhillips Shinbaum, LLP for a consultation on your claims, at 334-262-1911.