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Touch screens in cars distract older drivers more than cellphones

When Allentown residents hear about distracted driving, they often think of teenagers or young adults looking down at their phones while behind the wheel. Of course, cellphone use among drivers is still a primary concern and cause of car accidents on Pennsylvania roads.

But a new study states that the technology within the car itself could also serve as a significant distraction.

Older drivers more distracted by touch screens in vehicles

Nowadays, nearly 82% of cars have in-vehicle technology and a touch screen as their head unit. This technology is meant to be hands-free, as it allows drivers to:

  • Connect their phone to the car by Bluetooth
  • Use voice commands to call or text others
  • Have a GPS in their vehicle automatically

However, a new study conducted in Utah by AAA determined that this technology does not help every kind of driver stay focused behind the wheel. In fact, these technologies can be extremely distracting for older drivers.

The study found that drivers between the ages of 55 and 75 looked away from the road eight seconds longer than younger drivers to operate the touch screen. And the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that it only takes five seconds at 55 mph to drive the length of a football field. 

Age is not the problem—"infotainment" is

There is no doubt that these statistics are alarming. However, the distractions and increased risks are not the result of age. The primary issue lies in the culture of "infotainment."

In-Vehicle Infotainment is the term for this technology that involves touch screens as well as audio and video services inside vehicles. 

In reality, any form of entertainment does not belong behind the wheel. Entertainment requires someone's attention, and anything that draws someone's attention away from the road is a danger to themselves and others.

Infotainment systems are not distractions under Pennsylvania law

In a past blog post, we discussed how effective Pennsylvania's texting-while-driving ban is. While this law might target the most dangerous distraction of texting behind the wheel, it does not necessarily include all forms of distractions. For example, the ban explicitly does not include using any electronic devices within a vehicle as a distracted driving offense, even though it is a distraction.

The ban might not include these devices, but it is still critical for drivers—especially older drivers—to map out their destinations before they drive and leave any texting or calling for when they are not driving.

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