Distracted driving has been a major factor in traffic accidents over the last several years. One of the main causes of distraction is drivers using cell phones at the wheel. Because several studies have revealed the dangers of driving and using hand-held cell phones to talk or text, many auto manufacturers have developed in-car technologies to allow drivers to be able to talk and text hands-free. Unfortunately, hands-free devices haven’t been proven to be safe. In fact, there have been many studies that reveal the dangers of using hands-free devices while driving.
Now, new studies point to the dangers of dashboard infotainment systems. Car companies like Ford, Chrysler, Chevrolet, Mercedes and other auto manufacturers have installed voice-activated dashboard infotainment systems that will allow drivers to make calls and texts through voice commands. Although these systems are convenient and allow drivers to make calls, texts, and even change radio stations or climate control settings while keeping their eyes on the road, many of these systems are error-prone.
If you have ever used Apple iPhone’s Siri to make a call or send a text, you probably have had a good laugh or been annoyed at how the voice system occasionally gets your words wrong. While this might not be that big of a deal to correct while sitting on the couch, it can be downright dangerous when something like this goes wrong while driving.
When things go wrong when a car is in motion, a driver can become confused and distracted. In fact, studies by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety and the University of Utah indicate that the voice-activated dashboard infotainment systems could actually make the distracted driving issue worse. While many people believe that talking to their cars isn’t driving distracted, these studies reveal that drivers who use infotainment systems to make calls and texts are concentrating more on these systems, which is causing them to take their minds off driving.
The reason so much concentration is needed is because these system will only recognize certain commands. If drivers don’t speak clearly enough to match the stored command, the system can call the wrong party, enter incorrect words into the text field, or turn the radio off instead of to a station the driver intended. When a system doesn’t do what a driver wants it to do, it can cause a driver to be frustrated and distracted.
Unfortunately, “infotainment systems are unregulated,” said Deborah Hersman, president of the National Safety Council. Although the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has issued guidelines to automakers for dashboard systems, the guidelines are voluntary at this point.
Drivers need to beware that infotainment systems can be distracting and could lead to a traffic collision.