Study: In-car information systems are distracting, pose crash risk

The use of voice activated infotainment systems, although convenient, can be distracting, and thus, poses a crash risk for California drivers.

Most drivers in Northern California, and elsewhere, are aware of the dangers that speeding or drinking and driving pose. However, they, and others, often overlook the risks associated with distracted driving. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were 3,154 people killed in distracted driving crashes in 2013, and many more suffered serious injuries.

Many automakers have started including in-car information systems as a standard or upgraded option in their vehicles. Also known as infotainment systems, this technology was created, in large part, in an effort to cut down on distraction-related accidents and to improve vehicle convenience. Based on a recent study, however, these systems do not eliminate distractions, and thus, their use still poses an accident risk for motorists.

Examining the impact of infotainment system interactions on drivers

The American Automobile Association's Foundation for Traffic Safety conducted a study to understand how using in-car information systems impacts drivers' cognitive workloads. For the study, researchers from the University of Utah had 257 participants perform tasks using the infotainment systems in one of 10 different model-year 2015 automobiles. These tasks included voice dialing, voice contact calling and music selection.

The participants performed an initial assessment, where they were monitored while performing these tasks while driving. Then, the researchers had the study's participants take the vehicles home to practice using the in-car information systems for a period of five days. After the practice period was up, the participants returned for a reassessment.

Voice-recognition systems do not eliminate distractions

Overall, the study showed that using infotainment systems were moderately, highly and very highly distracting. The University of Utah reported that one of the study's authors attributes this to these types of technologies being error prone and potentially frustrating to use. Based on the study's findings, it may take drivers anywhere between 15 and 27 seconds to regain full attention after issuing voice commands. Thus, using such systems may increase drivers' likelihood of being involved in serious motor vehicle accidents. Furthermore, it was shown that older drivers tend to be much more distracted by the use of these systems than younger motorists.

Many infotainment system supporters suggest that the distractions associated with using these types of technologies may be eliminated with practice. The research, however, did not support this claim . The study's participants largely experienced the same level of distraction in their reassessments as they did in their initial assessments. Therefore, it is not advisable to use infotainment systems when driving, even though they are built into vehicles.

Seek legal representation

The consequences of distracted driving crashes in California, and throughout the U.S., can be devastating for those involved. When people are injured in such collisions, they often require medical treatment, which may lead to undue medical expenses. In some cases, however, the distracted drivers who cause these types of accidents may be liable for the resulting damages. Those who have experienced situations such as this may benefit from consulting with an attorney to understand their options for seeking financial compensation.