It is no secret that we need technology to enrich our lives and advance society. But with each technological advancement comes new questions and potential problems, including potential threats to our safety. As our cars become mobile technological devices, with integrated screens, Wi-Fi, and other gadgets, new challenges to ensure our safety will also surely arise.
Distractions in our Cars
There have always been distractions when driving since the day they put a radio inside our vehicles, or even a passenger seat where someone could sit next to us and take away our attention. But recent technology seems to have taken car accident risk to new levels.
We are all aware of the numerous studies that talk about the dangers of texting (or emailing) while driving. Although dangerous, a car manufacturer can do little to prevent us from taking a cellphone in a car and using it.
Car manufacturers are now starting in integrate that technology right into their cars, creating so-called “smart cars.” Today’s cars now have satellite radio, GPS, and Wi-Fi, all built into one handy—and distracting—“infotainment” screen. Even non-entertainment controls, such as adjusting the air conditioner, or checking oil levels, are now being integrated into these often complex systems. Drivers now have to take their eyes off the road and avert them to a screen just to change the temperature, check tire pressure, and just navigate the system itself.
Systems Take Eyes Off the Road
Combine the necessary information with other nifty information often contained in infotainment consoles, such as miles per gallon, 0-60 times, notation of surrounding restaurants and shopping, usage of cell-phone-style apps, or alteration of driving modes, and a driver could spend more time looking at a screen than the road.
Consumer reports recently found that just selecting a preset radio station took five steps in five seconds (a long time to not look at the road). Playing music on a USB-connected ipod took six steps and 11 seconds.
To put the potential danger in perspective, a car travelling at just 25 miles per hour can travel the length of three football fields in between 25-27 seconds. That number goes up exponentially when the car is travelling at highway speeds.
The problems were compounded by what the magazine found to be cluttered and counter-intuitive screens. And older drivers can have particular problems, if they are unfamiliar with the technology.
All of this technology has given rise to a new term: “Distracted Driving.” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has expressed concern about how much technology is being put into new cars.
There are steps that you can and should take to make sure that you are safe on the road even amidst the barrage of technology.
- Learn how to use your infotainment system: Driving on the highway is not the time to figure out which sub-menu will allow you to check your tire pressure. If you have to put your eyes on a screen to check a crucial function, at least make sure you know how to use it, to avoid fiddling around and searching and thus looking at the screen longer than you have to.
- Minimize the use of the system: Because so many essential functions are now integrated into these systems, looking at them may be a necessary evil. But you should try to use them only when needed. It’s one thing to look at the screen to change the air conditioner, or your gas level. It is a whole different thing to be searching for your favorite 80s music channel, or trying to set a timer to time yourself in the quarter mile. Many systems are now incorporating full blown internet connectivity, which can lead to a vast array of distractions.
- Use voice controls when possible: Although research is inconclusive over whether using voice controls to navigate the infotainment system is less distracting, it is generally a better idea if it allows you to keep your eyes on the road.
- Consider the infotainment systems of the car before purchasing it: If you are looking to buy a new car, it is easy to focus on the engine and gas mileage and safety features. Rarely do we take into account the usability, or interface of the infotainment system. But organizations like Consumer Reports or AAA do rate these systems on ease of use, and you should consider those rankings when purchasing a new car.
When You are the Victim
Of course, even if you exercise every safety measure, you may be injured by someone else who is distracted with an infotainment system. When someone is negligent, we often ask if they were drinking, or texting, but many do not give thought to whether the negligent party was tooling around with the infotainment system.
As cars start to have more processing power than our earliest computers, they also have the ability to generate internal usage records. That means that an infotainment system potentially has a record of when it was being used. Those records may be direct evidence that a driver was distracted before colliding with you.
Stay safe on the road. If you are injured in a car accident, make sure your attorneys understand all the potential causes, and how to get the evidence you need to win your case. Contact the automobile and personal injury attorneys of Brill & Rinaldi today for a free consultation about your case.