Thanks to the introduction of Internet-enabled automobile dashboards, you’ll never have to spend one second of the day disconnected. High-tech dashboards that offer the flexibility of a smartphone make it easy for drivers to play their favorite tunes, check their text messages or even make dinner reservations on the road. Although you can do those things, should you? Safety experts say no.
Hands-Free Systems Offer No Safety Benefits
One AAA Foundation research study that measured brain activity and performance while subjects drove and used electronic devices uncovered disturbing information.
During the 2011 study, researchers discovered that even if a driver uses a hands-free system and his or her eyes remain on the road, operating electronic devices is dangerous for the following reasons:
- Activity is suppressed in the areas of the brain used for safe driving.
- Drivers experienced increased reaction time and decreased accuracy.
- Drivers were more likely to miss important cues because they weren’t fully aware of their surroundings.
- They didn’t spend as much time scanning the area in front of them and developed tunnel vision.
Although you might think hands-free systems offer the perfect compromise, researchers discovered that driver interactions with speech-to-text systems created the highest level of distraction.
How to Decrease Risk
Since dashboard screens are here to stay, it’s important to decrease the risk of accidents while using them.
The National Highway Traffic System Administration suggests that drivers avoid taking their eyes off the road for more than two seconds at a time, and limit the total time to perform any task to no more than 12 seconds.
The NHTSA guidelines go so far as to recommend disabling manual text entry for texting and Internet browsing, and shutting down video-based entertainment, text messages and social media content unless the car is stopped.
Monitor Young Drivers Closely
As you can probably imagine, the use of electronic devices while driving is particularly popular with younger drivers.
A study conducted by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute and Toyota Motor Sales USA Inc. discovered that approximately 23 percent of teenagers respond to a text message and 30 percent read a message one or more times every time they drive.
Researchers also found that young people were more likely to engage in risky driving behaviors if their parents were distracted drivers and participated in the same behaviors.
Talking to young drivers about the dangers of distracted driving and modeling safe driving habits can help reduce this risky behavior.
Dashboard screens offer great convenience for drivers and passengers if they’re used wisely.
Following safety recommendations is an essential step in reducing accidents that can occur during distracted driving.