Safety Features In Vehicles Distract Drivers
AAA report reveals older drivers at risk behind the wheel
A report by the American Automobile Association reveals that high-tech automobile features created to protect the well-being of the driver and passengers are compromising that safety they were designed to provide. The executive summary highlights that older demographics were more likely than their younger counterparts to become more accident prone using in-car technology.
While statistics concerning the percentage of distracted drivers involving rented vehicles are hard to come by, there’s no doubt that such accidents play a part in the car rental industry. One employee at a car rental company in Atlanta commented that roughly 50 percent of his customer base contact his business because their vehicles were involved in a distracted driving accident, a major reason for accident claims. Most of those involved being rear-ended by a driver operating a cell phone when the car was moving.
Still, it might be disconcerting to the car rental industry, since major companies take pride in having the most recent models possible in their fleets, as well as the most up to date car rental software. They’re all equipped with the latest on-board features to make the driving experience more pleasurable and much safer when it comes to keeping drivers off the cell phone, a major contributor to distracted driving. Despite the presence of these safeguards, the findings have the AAA worried.
The crux of the issue comes down to how people handle the functions of the car’s features, such as the touchscreen and the use of audio commands. The older the driver, the slower they were in operating those features, meaning they also took their eyes off the road in the process while behind the wheel. Tests conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety and the University of Utah revealed that some drivers ignored what was taking place on the other side of the windshield for as long as 8.6 seconds while fiddling around with the vehicle’s high-tech amenities. Those results were alarming considering that even a two-second lapse in attention doubles the likelihood of an accident.
“Voice-command functions found in new in-vehicle technology are intended to help drivers by keeping their eyes and attention on the road,” Dr. David Yang, executive director for the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety said. “Unfortunately, the complexity and poor design of some of these systems could cause more harm for older drivers.”
Subjects aged 55-75 were particularly vulnerable to distracted driving, far more than those in the 21-36 age group. That came as no surprise since participants in that demographic came of age after the Internet wormed its way into society, meaning that handling a car’s technology was more second-nature to them.
Considering that 20 percent of drivers on the road will be in the 65-plus age group by 2030, the organization stresses that older folks become more familiar with the in-car technology before hitting the road.
Older drivers stand to benefit the most from these advancements of in-vehicle technology but ironically may struggle the most to use them,” added the report. “By making the driving environment easier and safer for older adults, all drivers on the road may benefit.”