Auto Infotainment Systems – New Driving Risks

The growing advancements in digital and IT technology is a part of everyday life. This expanding technology has even allowed auto makers to turn private autos into internet “hot spots.” New cars are now being equipped with access to IT services that range from cloud-based streaming music to email acquisition and more. As wonderful as this technology sounds, according to numerous reports and lawyers who handle car accident cases, these new “infotainment systems” have also increased driver distraction. Law firms that help clients injured in car accidents see many cases involving incidents caused by distracted drivers. Is there now a new risk to add to the list of driver distractions that can affect safe driving habits?

What Are Infotainment Systems?

Most new vehicles have some sort of entertainment system. It may include basic items, such as a radio and CD player. Smart phones and MP3 players can now be linked to steam music for vehicle occupants. An infotainment system has taken new car technology one giant step forward: this system provides bluetooth internet functions, including GPS features, voice activated system and vehicle control, music streaming, and even streaming movies and social networking on touchscreens. That vehicle traveling down the highway has become an internet hot spot on wheels.

Distracted Driving and Traffic Accidents

It has been studied and reported numerous times that distracted driving causes accidents. Lawyers who help clients recover from auto accident-related injuries report that driver attention and reaction time is compromised or delayed when using infotainment systems, often resulting in an auto accident. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety has conducted studies that have examined in-car technology and its effect on drivers. They reported that distractions increases exponentially with the amount of activity in the car.1

Activities such as listening to the radio and talking to a passenger in the car increases driver distraction. The use of electronic devices while driving increases distraction even more because of the level of mental activity required to operate them. Distracted driving is responsible for up to nine deaths and 1,150 injuries every day in the U.S.2 For this reason, many states have adopted laws which prohibit any type of cell phone usage while driving.

Infotainment Systems and Distracted Driving

Hands-free and voice-activated devices that can help avoid some of the above-referenced distractions have become more popular with drivers. Many attorneys who work with auto accident victims have seen the accident reports that support their concern that these devices increase rather than decrease driver distraction. This was also confirmed in the AAA study mentioned above.1 Infotainment systems are especially dangerous because they distract in a variety of ways due to numerous features and an increased reliance on voice control. Additional studies have shown that distraction levels are significant with all of the various popular vehicle infotainment systems.3 Although any activity that diverts a driver’s attention away from the road is hazardous, infotainment systems are particularly dangerous to safe driving habits.

Various studies as well as the analysis of available accident statistics definitely show that bluetooth devices in the form of infotainment systems in cars are actually a real danger to drivers and anyone else on the road. Lawyers who represent clients injured in distracted driving accidents agree that electronic devices are a significant cause of these incidents. Distracted driving accidents can be reduced when drivers are made aware of these facts and avoid the use of electronic devices or infotainment systems while operating their vehicles.

1AAA – Measuring Cognitive Distractiton in the Automobile, June 2013

2CDC: Injury Prevention & Control: Motor Vehicle Safety – Distracted Driving, October 2014

3AAA – Mental Workload of Common VoiceBased Vehicle Interactions across Six Different Vehicle Systems, October 2014

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