Infotainment systems pose collision risk for drivers, study says

Many believe infotainment offer a safe option for cellphone use while driving, but a study found these technologies still pose a distraction for drivers.

People in Tennessee and elsewhere often overlook the risks associated with distracted driving. However, the U.S. Department of Transportation reports that auto accidents involving distracted drivers resulted in 431,000 injuries and 3,179 deaths across the country in 2014 alone. Many motorists believe that using voice-activated technologies, or infotainment systems, offer a less distracting, safer option for using their cellphones while driving. A recent study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that using these systems still poses a crash risk for drivers.

Examining the effects of infotainment system use on drivers

Researchers from the University of Utah, along with the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, conducted a study to understand how drivers' cognitive workloads are affected by the use of voice-activated technologies in ten model-year 2015 vehicles. To this end, 257 study participants were asked to use the infotainment systems in one of the 10 vehicles. 65 additional participants performed tasks using the voice-activated systems from Google, Microsoft and Apple.

The researchers asked the study participants to perform a range of tasks such as making music selections, voice dialing and voice contact calling. To establish a baseline, the researchers monitored participants while they performed these tasks. Then, the study's participants were permitted to practice using the in-car information systems at home for five days. After the practice period, the participants returned with the vehicles and the researchers monitored them as they performed the tasks again.

Motorists still distracted by voice-activated technologies

Based on the study's findings, infotainment systems can be significantly distracting for motorists. As such, using these systems pose a motor vehicle accident risk for drivers. The study showed that after using voice-activated technologies, motorists' attention may remain averted for 15 to 27 seconds, according to the New York Times. In general, this lingering distraction is because drivers must refocus and identify where they are, their speed and where other vehicles are on the roads after using such systems.

Supporters of infotainment systems commonly claim that the distractions they pose may dissipate over time with practice. The study's findings did not support this argument, however. The study's participants largely experienced the same level of distraction when using the voice-activated technologies during their initial assessments and after the practice periods.

Seeking legal guidance

Suffering an injury in a distracted driving accident may have devastating effects for people in Tennessee and their families. They may require medical treatment, which may lead to undue medical expenses and lost wages. Under some circumstances, the drivers responsible for causing such collisions may be held financially responsible. Thus, it may benefit people who have experienced such situations to discuss their case with an attorney. A legal representative may help them understand their rights and explain their options for pursuing compensation.