How distractive are in-vehicle systems to drivers?

Car driving fast in tunnelIn recent years, many states including Illinois have enacted legislation that prohibits the use of handheld cellphones and other technologies while driving. In response, many of today’s automakers, tech giants and consumers are turning to hands-free or voice-based in-vehicle systems for communication purposes and navigation assistance.

Given that these new technologies have been in use for such a short time, there is substantial concern over just how safe they truly are. The Illinois Department of Transportation has reported more than 80 automotive fatalities already this year. This makes the role these systems play in these accidents of particular concern to motorists, as well as a Chicago car accident attorney.

Defining distracted driving

The American Automotive Association defines distracted driving as “the diversion of attention away from activities critical for safe driving toward a competing activity.” The organization reports that distracted driving is a key factor in 50 percent of all crashes involving teen drivers. While eating in the car or talking on a cell phone are examples of distracted driving, what many motorists don’t realize is that engaging in voice communication with an in-vehicle communicative device can prove equally distracting. In fact, AAA reports that interacting with these in-vehicle devices actually requires more cognitive effort than engaging in conversation with another human.

The dangers of cognitive distraction

While driving is an inherently dangerous activity, a Chicago car accident attorney knows that it becomes even more so when drivers are focused on other matters. In a previous blog post an AAA study indicates that cognitive distraction negatively affects driving ability even when both hands are on the wheel. Statistics reported on Distraction.org drive this point home even further. Researchers have found that even hands-free phone calls lead to high levels of cognitive distraction. Communicating with a hands-free phone system can lead motorists to miss otherwise obvious audio and visual cues that would typically allow them to avoid a crash.  That same study asserts that the use of headset cell phone features has not been shown to be significantly safer than a standard, handheld model.

Given that the widespread use of in-vehicle, hands-free systems has only occurred in the last several years, there is still much to learn about the specific dangers involved in doing so. A Chicago car accident attorney closely monitors studies and media mentions about the dangers of in-vehicle systems to ensure he or she has the most up-to-date and relevant information available on the subject.

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