Dashboards of Today = Infotainment Systems
Surveys indicate that nearly ¾ of drivers in the United States prefer having the latest interactive technology in their vehicles. And vehicle manufacturers have been listening.
Vehicle infotainment system is a term used to describe the car dashboard systems that have evolved over the last few decades from radio to cassette tapes, to CDs, and now to digital. Today’s digital infotainment systems provide more functionality and are becoming more sophisticated, complex, and… dangerous.
Not only are vehicle manufacturers giving drivers the ability to talk and listen to music, but they give drivers the ability to use multiple types of commands to access and send social media, email, and text messages. Some systems use touch screens, while others have voice commands, writing pads, windshield or mirror displays, knobs, buttons, or a combination of the above to control the infotainment.
Distracted Driving = Danger
While manufacturers claim that the infotainment systems were designed to require very short amounts of focus time like older radios and climate control systems, most drivers need to take their eyes off the road for longer periods of time to actively use the infotainment systems of today.
AAA’s Foundation for Traffic Safety recently released a study on 2017 vehicle infotainment systems and the comparative attention required from drivers to effectively operate the systems. Of the 30 cars and light trucks tested, not one of the 30 vehicles tested was quick and easy enough to be rated “low” for the required level of attention required by the driver to operate the system. Only seven of the vehicle infotainment systems needed “moderate” levels of attention. That left the majority — 23 of the vehicle infotainment systems tested – rated as requiring “high” or “very high” levels of driver attention to use effectively.
To find out how your vehicle infotainment system rates, check below.
Most distracting infotainment systems ranked as “very high”: 
“High” distraction level infotainment systems:
“Moderate” distraction level infotainment systems:
While the articles didn’t provide details equating attention levels to length of distraction, researchers did equate “very high” required driver attention with trying to balance a checkbook while driving. Moreover, common sense tells us that it is likely that drivers are taking their eyes off the road to operate these infotainment systems for 1 or even 2 seconds, or maybe more. And that’s where the danger comes in. According to earlier AAA research, drivers who take their eyes of the road for just two seconds increases the likelihood of a crash by 200%.
Of all the different infotainment activities, the most driver-distracting activity was using the navigation system, which took an average of 40 seconds to program. AAA representatives stress that in those 40 seconds, a vehicle going 25 mph can travel the length of four football fields. 
Five years ago, the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration (NHSTA) released guidelines recommending that car manufacturers permit navigation systems to be programmed only when the vehicle is stopped. However, of the 30 vehicles tested in the study, 12 still gave the driver ability to program navigation systems while driving.
Resolving the Infotainment Distraction Dilemma
Drivers may enjoy using the bells and whistles on their new infotainment dashboards, but vehicle manufacturers need to improve ease of use and reduce the amount of attention required from drivers to use these systems. At the same time, drivers need to be aware that distracted driving isn’t only about texting and driving – it’s about any type of distraction that requires them to take their eyes off the road – including dashboard infotainment activities. Distracted driving can lead to dangerous driving and accidents.
Stay safe. Steer clear of driving distractions and keep your eyes on the road.
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