By Dr. Mallika Marshall

BOSTON (CBS) – We usually associate distracted driving with talking or texting behind the wheel, but now there is a new concern – technology built right into your dash.

Infotainment systems put technology at our fingertips, but a new study from AAA finds the screens can be extremely distracting.

Researchers had two dozen volunteers test 30 different vehicles on a residential road.  They measured how much drivers had to look at the screen and think about what they were doing while making a call, sending a text or using the stereo and navigation system.

Professor David Strayer, Ph.D. from the University of Utah led the research.

“Some of the most advanced systems are really very difficult for the driver to use,” says Strayer.

A car’s infotainment system. (WBZ-TV)

The study found drivers were visually distracted for more than 40 seconds when programming the navigation system or sending a text message. AAA says removing your eyes from the road for just two seconds can double the risk of a crash.

Ricardo Meijias took part in the research and nearly missed a stop sign while using a touch screen.

“The cars that used the screens and the touch pads were probably the ones that made me feel the most uncomfortable,” says Meijias.

Researchers say voice commands also take the driver’s attention off the road.

“What we found is much of that technology is just too distracting,” explains Strayer.  “It just took the drivers eyes of the road and their mind off the drive for far too long.”

AAA is sharing the results with automakers.

Safety experts want car companies to change infotainment systems so the most distracting features are locked out when the car is in motion.  Some automakers already disengage certain infotainment features when the vehicle is moving.

Dr. Mallika Marshall

  1. Texting is not just a “teen” problem. There are millions of employees who seek to do work while behind the wheel. Fleet vehicles/company cars are on the road more than teen drivers. They “multi-task” becoming very distracted.

    The State wants to increase fees and fines, but there is a tech way to stop these distraction. There are apps to block you using your phone when you drive. AT&T DriveMode is one example and it is FREE!

    One area that is rarely discussed is that each state has hundreds of State vehicles that inspectors, regulators and the agricultural department use as fleet vehicles, but they do not have the technology to diminish distracted driving. I would love to see one state lead by example and use a program, like FleetMode, to block texts, redirect incoming phone calls, and impede all other apps in the State vehicles. If we want our state roads to be safer, let’s start by making our state vehicles safer.

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