Infotainment is a major distraction

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In-vehicle infotainment systems can be a serious driver distraction, slowing reactions more than drink or drugs, according to a study in the UK.

The study commissioned by road-safety charity IAM RoadSmart found that using infotainment systems while driving at highway speeds can increase average stopping distances by four to five car lengths.

Drivers took their eyes off the road for as long as 16 seconds, the equivalent of traveling 500m at 70mph, and using touch controls was even worse than texting while driving.

Neil Greig, policy and research director at IAM RoadSmart, said, “While previous research indicates that Apple CarPlay and Android Auto perform better than more traditional buttons and controls, the results from this latest study raise some serious concerns about the development and use of the latest in-vehicle infotainment systems. Anything that distracts a driver’s eyes or mind from the road is bad news for road safety.”

Drivers in the study completed a series of three drives on the same simulated test route to assess the impact of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

On the first run, drivers did not interact with the system. On subsequent runs, they used voice control then touch controls.

Both methods proved distracting, but touchscreens were worse with drivers unable to maintain a constant distance to the vehicle in front, reacting more slowly to sudden occurrences, and deviating outside of their lane.

Greig said, “While we would like to see a review of these systems in the future, we’d encourage owners of vehicles fitted with these systems to use them in the safest possible way, including setting everything up before starting a journey.”

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