Hands-free, voice-controlled infotainment systems can pose dangerous distractions for drivers, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety warns. Some automakers’ systems take more attention away from driving than others, says AAA, which urges drivers to limit use of the most distracting technology.
Considering that 3,328 people died in 2012 in accidents caused by distracted driving, the AAA findings are significant.
AAA commissioned researchers at the University of Utah to test the infotainment systems of various auto manufacturers. The researchers graded the systems based on how much they distracted drivers as they made phone calls, used social media, tuned the radio and performed other tasks.
- Chevrolet’s MyLink system was the most distracting for drivers using it to make calls and tune the radio.
- Mercedes’ COMMAND, MyFord Touch and Chrysler’s UConnect were less distracting. But they all required more attention than talking on a cellphone.
- Hyundai’s Blue Link was less distracting than talking with a passenger.
- Toyota’s Entune was the least distracting, requiring about as much attention as listening to a book on tape.
In general, systems that were the most complex, mentally demanding and inaccurate posed the highest level of distraction. Some systems were so difficult to use that test drivers cursed at them, the researchers said.
“Even though your car may be configured to support social media, texting and phone calls, it doesn’t mean it is safe to do so,” David Strayer, a psychology professor at the University of Utah and leader of the study, told the U News Center. “The primary task should be driving. Things that take your attention away make you a poor driver and make the roads less safe.”
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