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AAA Study Shows Danger in Infotainment

Infotainment Systems Contribute to Distracted Driving

AAA recently released a new study investigating the growing trend of infotainment systems in new vehicles. These are installed systems which provide interactive tools for drivers and passengers, such as Bluetooth phone use, on-screen navigation, or social media updates. While these systems are incredibly convenient, they may also contribute to distractions while driving. The goal of the study was to gain insight into how difficult these systems are to use safely, and make recommendations to manufacturers on how to improve their safety.

Consistent Risk

The study involved 120 individuals testing 30 new vehicles while driving and operating the infotainment system features. Each vehicle was then sorted into one of four categories (Low, Moderate, High, Very High), based on how long they pulled the driver’s eyes off the road and how they affected the mental focus of the driver. The Low category, which AAA recommends all systems should fall into, is considered roughly equivalent to listening to the radio or an audiobook; the Very High category, in contrast, is similar to the distraction of balancing a checkbook while driving. None of the tested vehicles fell within the Low category, while Very High claimed 12 of the tested vehicles, more than any other category. Only 7 vehicles managed to get as low as the Moderate rating.

Jake Nelson, director of AAA’s Traffic Safety Advocacy & Research, described the trends they saw: “These are solvable problems. By following NHTSA’s voluntary guidelines to lock out certain features that generate high demand while driving, automakers can significantly reduce distraction.” AAA President and CEO Marshall Doney noted of these distractions, “some of the latest systems on the market now include functions unrelated to the core task of driving like sending text messages, checking social media or surfing the web — tasks we have no business doing behind the wheel.”

Safe Driving

California is inclined to agree with Doney’s assessment. Current state laws prohibit holding a cell phone while driving, limiting the use by drivers to a single swipe or tap to activate or end a function, such as handling a call through Bluetooth. For drivers under 18, any use of cell phones or wireless electronic devices is illegal. While infotainment systems and other distractions are not specifically illegal, there are other rules that give law enforcement the means to watch for anything they perceive as a dangerous distraction. Nelson warned,  “AAA cautions drivers that just because a technology is available while driving does not mean it is safe or easy to use when behind the wheel. Drivers should only use these technologies for legitimate emergencies or urgent, driving related purposes.”

We urge all drivers to focus on the road and avoid distractions as much as possible. Automakers may work to reduce the danger of these systems, and laws may make it more difficult to participate in many distracting practices, but it is up to individuals to choose safety over entertainment or convenience. And if you or a loved one has been the victim of a car accident because another driver failed to choose safety, an experienced auto accident attorney at Ardalan & Associates will work to help you hold them responsible and get the justice you deserve.

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