Many new cars today come equipped with different types of infotainment systems designed to assist drivers with navigation, making calls, and listening to audiobooks or music, all accessible by voice command.
A new study by the IIHS and MIT found that some voice command systems cause less distraction for elderly drivers than systems requiring manual and visual interaction. In particular, infotainment systems which require a single voice command as opposed to multiple commands proved to be safer, especially for older drivers.
The study reported that drivers young and old using a single-command voice-control system kept their attention focused on the road about 85 percent of the time. Researchers also found that test drivers who had to use knobs or buttons to input commands spent less time with their eyes on the road, while also reporting that a driver’s attention span while on the road decreases with age.
As the age of the test drivers increased, researchers found that for every 10-year increase in age, drivers took nearly 4 seconds longer to make a call, while the occurrence of extended glances away from the road increased. Senior test drivers were also found to make more errors when using a voice-command infotainment system.
“Age-related changes in attention, including the demands of using a phone while driving, are well-known,” says Ian Reagan, an IIHS senior research scientist. “This study contributes new information to the field by showing that the single-command voice interface design to some extent controlled the age-related decrements in attention.”
Senior drivers can make themselves and others safer by:
· Learning how to use their vehicle’s infotainment system—taking a few minutes to learn how to use the infotainment system in a new car can make the difference between a distracted driving accident and a safe journey.
· Not using non-essential functions while driving—Texting, checking social media accounts, and interacting with onboard navigation are the most distracting behaviors associated with infotainment systems.
· Letting a passenger handle the details—Instead of relying on the vehicle’s infotainment system, a passenger can take care of inputting navigation information or use a separate mobile device for surfing the web or interacting with contacts by phone or text.
It is important to remember that “hands-free” doesn’t mean “distraction-free”—if the driver of a vehicle is focusing on something other than the task of driving, they are putting themselves and other people sharing the road at risk.
If you or a loved one were injured by a distracted driver, reach out to a local motor vehicle accident lawyer who can help determine your rights and assess if you have a case.