AAA: Car Touchscreens Too Distracting

AAA says on-board technology such as touchscreens could be distracting drivers and risking safety. It wants car makers to disable some features such as programming a navigation route while the vehicle is moving.

The organisation’s Foundation for Traffic Safety ran a study of thirty 2017 model cars in which drivers carried out three hours of driving on quiet residential roads. It asked them to carry out four tasks (making a phone call, text messaging, tuning a radio and programming navigation routes) using any on-board tech, rather than a phone handset.

The study staff then combined objective information such as the time spent on each task with subjective ratings of how distracted the drivers felt to produce a ranking for each vehicle on the overall level of distraction. 12 fell into the “very high” category, 11 into “high”, and seven into “moderate”, with no cars being ranked as having low or no distraction.

The biggest problem was programming navigation, something the study suggested could take as long as 40 seconds. While driving at the 25 mph limit in the study, that would mean the car travelling almost 1 mile or 1.6 kilometers without the driver paying full attention.

According to AAA, both automakers and drivers need to take responsibility. It wants automakers to work more on making screen-based systems quicker and more intuitive to use, with navigation programming and texting on car screens both disabled while in movement. It also says drivers should only use distracting technologies when its urgent to do so and should not automatically assume that a technology built into a car is safe to use while driving.

There is of course an argument that disabling such technologies while moving could stop perfectly safe use by front-seat passengers. Other than saying they should instead use their phone, one solution might be to have such touchscreen functions disabled while in motion unless the car senses two hands on the steering wheel.

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