As cars get more connected, distracted driving gets worse

This article looks at how in-car infotainment systems are much more distracting than people realize.

Cars nowadays are more than just vehicles for helping people get around. With built-in infotainment systems and increased connectivity, in many ways they have become giant computers or smartphones in their own right. While many car manufacturers market these "hands-free" features as safety features, the truth is that cars themselves are contributing to the distracted driving epidemic. In fact, as USA Today reports, a recent study has found that built-in car technology is just as distracting as using a mobile phone while driving.

Not focused on driving

The researchers at the University of Utah ranked 30 vehicles that offered infotainment systems and gave them one of four rankings based on how distracting they were for drivers: low, moderate, high, and very high. The study used 120 drivers who were between the ages of 21 and 36.

None of the vehicles were ranked "low" in terms of their infotainment system's level of distraction and only seven vehicles were ranked for "moderate" distraction. The rest of the vehicles ranked as "high" or "very high" regarding how distracting their infotainment systems were for drivers.

One problem the study noted was how 12 of the 30 vehicles studied did not prevent drivers from programming directions while they were driving. Programming directions takes about 40 seconds, which is the equivalent to driving the length of four football vehicles when going at 25 mph.

Distracted driving underreported

The problem with infotainment systems is just one aspect of the much larger and growing problem of distracted driving. As Bloomberg reports, distracted driving is likely behind recent increases in overall traffic fatalities across the country. However, problems with how distracted driving is reported means that the problem is still widely underappreciated.

In fact, official figures from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) claim that just 1.4 percent of traffic fatalities are linked to mobile phone usage and that distracted driving fatalities actually declined last year. Those figures are widely believed to vastly underreport the true scope of the problem. The National Safety Council, for example, found that only half of fatal crashes tied to mobile phone use were actually listed as such by the NHTSA.

Furthermore, a study by tech startup Zendrive found that people are using their phones on 88 percent of car trips, a figure that doesn't even include the use of hands-free devices. Such studies suggest that instead of declining, distracted driving has become even more rampant.

Dealing with an accident

As distracted driving continues to cause havoc on the roads, it is essential that those who have been hurt in a crash reach out to a personal injury attorney for help. Particularly when the accident may have been caused by a distracted driver, an attorney can help accident victims pursue potential compensation that can help them deal with the various financial, physical, and emotional burdens raised by a crash.