New-model cars are loaded with more driver distractions than ever before, including navigation systems that take an average of 40 seconds to program, according to a study of more than two dozen 2017 vehicles.
“It's a staggering increase in the technology and complexity of the vehicle in the last two to three years,” said David Strayer, lead scientist in the study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
Distracted driving is under-reported because many drivers don't admit to their distraction. In 2015, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recorded that 3,477 people were killed and 391,000 were injured in vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers.
The AAA foundation tested the distraction factor in 30 new car models, concluding that 23 had technology on board that demanded the driver pay a high or very high level of attention to it while the car was moving.
“We've seen the things that are enabled in the car keep growing and growing,” Strayer said. “Often times it leads the driver who purchases the car to think, ‘It must be safe because it's in the car. Why would they put it in otherwise?'”
The AAA study was coupled with a survey that found that nearly 70 percent of people wanted new technology in their cars, but only 24 percent felt that technology worked perfectly.
“Drivers want technology that is safe and easy to use,” said AAA chief executive Marshall Doney, “but many of the features added to infotainment systems today have resulted in overly complex and sometimes frustrating experiences for drivers.”
NHTSA issued voluntary guidelines to automakers in 2012, saying they should block tasks that distract motorists from driving unless the vehicle is parked.
“What we're seeing is that many of these companies have enabled technology that's very demanding and not consistent with the NHTSA guidelines,” Strayer said. “In the old cars, it took two seconds to change the radio. Now it may take 24 seconds.” The report found that infotainment systems could be made safer by locking out navigation programmings, text messaging and social media while the vehicle is moving.