Auto infotainment systems a distraction for all drivers

By Kirsten McMahon, Managing Editor:
A recent study showing the adverse effects of automobile infotainment systems on older motorists is a good reminder for all drivers to keep their eyes and minds on the road, says Rhino Legal Finance Inc. president and CEO Larry Herscu.

The study, conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, examined age-related differences in the visual, cognitive and temporal demands associated with common tasks using the In-Vehicle Information Systems (IVIS) found in six different vehicles.

Participants included 128 licensed drivers — who had normal or corrected-to-normal vision and clean driving history — divided into two groups: those aged 21 to 36 years and older drivers between the ages of 55 to 75.

The results show that when it comes to specific tasks — calling or dialing, text messaging, programming music or navigation — older drivers experienced higher levels of cognitive and visual demand, compared to younger drivers, for both IVIS tasks and baseline tasks.

Hescu tells us that many vehicles on the market today include touchscreen or voice-command systems that put drivers in a position to be distracted.

“I would say these technologies make it much harder to do just about everything, and it forces you to take your concentration away from the road,” he says. “While these consoles are quite sophisticated and can do many things, even the smallest distraction has the potential to cause a life-altering accident.”

Herscu says a big part of Rhino Legal’s business is offering financial support to those who have been hurt in an accident to help them pay the bills while their lawyer fights for a fair settlement.

While distracted driving laws vary by province, most prohibit programming a GPS device, except by voice commands. However, adjusting temperature controls or selecting music is no longer as simple as pushing a button or turning a dial.

“I would say that all drivers should be aware of the distractions that these technologies bring. Those in-car tasks that fall outside of the law — like adjusting the radio or fiddling with temperature controls — should be done at a red light or when you are safely pulled over.”