Newfangled Car Tech Is Distracting Older Drivers, Says New Study

Voice assistants, touch screens and even radios are forcing eyes off the road

Tesla Model S dashboard
The very busy dashboard of a Tesla Model S can be a distraction for older drivers
By Kirk Miller / July 31, 2019 10:20 am

A new AAA study shows that older drivers keep their eyes off the road for more than eight seconds longer than younger drivers.

The culprit? All the tech on your car’s dashboard, from the radio to the navigation features.

The test was conducted via the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety and researchers from the University of Utah, according to a story in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. The study’s participants were divided into two age groups (21-36, 55-75) and were tasked with different car tech commands, from using a voice assistant, sending a text and using a touch screen. As the article notes, a risk of crash doubles for drivers who take their eyes off the road for two seconds.

“Voice-command functions found in new in-vehicle technology are intended to help drivers by keeping their eyes and attention on the road,” said Sergio Avila, spokesperson for AAA Nevada. “Unfortunately, the complexity and poor design of some of these systems could cause more harm for older drivers instead of helping them.” The agency recommended that all drivers avoid in-vehicle infotainment tech while driving (except for emergencies), steer clear of vehicles with a center console controller, and practice voice commands and touch-screen controls while not driving to build up a comfort level.

They also might want to avoid any vehicle that Elon Musk builds. The Tesla founder announced this weekend that Tesla cars would soon have the ability to stream YouTube and Netflix from the driver’s seat. Admittedly, that’s while the car is not moving, though Musk did note “when full self-driving is approved by regulators, we will enable video while moving.”

Photo: Steve Jurvetson/Flickr Creative Commons

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