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New technology in cars can cause distracted driving dangers for older drivers

Distracted driving is dangerous no matter who is behind the wheel of a motor vehicle but when older citizens are distracted, the danger for a car crash increases even more.

Distracted driving potential has grown enormously over the past decade. Previously, a driver may have been distracted by eating, or fiddling with the radio dial. Nowadays, distraction resources include cell phone calls, texting, infotainment systems, GPS, and a host of other technological developments that are now part of a motor vehicle’s integral design.

AAA study reports high-tech in cars more dangerous for older drivers

Recent results from a AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety study showed that drivers ages 55-75, on average, were distracted for greater amounts of times for certain in-car tasks than were younger drivers ages 21-35. The longer distraction times occurred when the older drivers were performing tasks such as changing a radio station or programming navigation using their motor vehicle’s infotainment features.

Distraction driving times for in-car tasks

In all distraction driving episodes, drivers taking their eyes off the road for a mere two seconds doubles the risk of a car accident. Longevity statistics shows that the largest growing demographic age group in the United States, as of 2030, will be those over the age of 65. In fact, one in five drivers will fit this demographic. So what can be done about making driving safer for older drivers?

AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety executive director Dr. David Yang says that understanding and using technology comfortably and safely is the key for older drivers. He said, “Voice-command functions found in new in-vehicle technology have the potential to help older drivers keep their eyes and attention on the road. Unfortunately, the complexity and poor design of some of these systems could cause harm for older drivers.”

Partnering with researchers at the University of Utah, the AAA Foundation examined systems in six 2018 vehicles. Both younger and older drivers, while driving, used voice commands, touch screens and other interactive technologies to perform certain tasks, including voice commands, touch screens, placing telephone calls, sending texts, changing radio stations and setting up the GPS.

The results showed that these actions caused unsafe driving conditions for all aged drivers, especially for older adults who took longer to complete tasks, being found to be more visually distracted than their younger counterparts.

The following table shows the completing time by task type of younger drivers and older drivers.

How older drivers can avoid causing a car crash due to distracted driving

As a result of the study, older drivers were given specific recommendations by AAA to avoid distraction-caused car crashes. They included the following.

· Avoid using in-vehicle infotainment system when driving, except when needed in an emergency.

  • Practice using the voice command and touch-screen functions before driving (like parked at the curb) to become familiar with them, and read the car’s manual to become acquainted with all the devices and programs in your vehicles.

  • Avoid cars that require a center console controller when using the infotainment system, as this type of system is especially distracting.

If you are an older driver and follow the above tips to avoid distracted driving, you can feel comfortable continuing to drive without posing an undue hazard to yourself, your passengers or others.

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