AAA Studies Driver Distraction in the US

sAutomotive – When navigation systems entered the automotive market, the rave for larger screens and head up displays in automobiles started.  Smartphones and now augmented reality headsets could be used in cars while driving. 

Some countries, such as the UK, have legislation that disallows the use of distracting devices while driving. Similar laws in other countries are mostly seen as preventing the use of handheld devices like smartphones while driving.

All of these restrictions assume that the use of a handheld device will distract the driver from the traffic around him and as a result, cause a danger to himself and others.  So far so good, it seems an easy concept that when you look at a handheld device for receiving messages you can’t watch the road. The question is, if there are other tasks in a car that will distract the driver?

The AAA in the US aimed to answer this question with a study that addresses the use of hands-free technologies in the car. Many believe that the use of such technologies is safe, as many laws allow such use. The AAA has published the results of this study and sees a clear effect of the use of hands-free technology on the driver’s awareness.

The following video shows some of the testing and results.

The AAA also looked at the effect of different versions of hands-free technologies and found significant differences between such systems.  The following graph shows some of the results.

These results shows clearly that the level of distraction as measured by AAA depends on the function the driver is performing. Nevertheless, measuring distraction is difficult and included not only lab testing but also real world driving tests. Some of the basis for this study relates to studies about the distraction of airline pilots.

Similar differences exist between the implementation of hands-free technology by different car companies.  This study does not include augmented reality headsets or head up displays, but it seems logical that added electronic devices may have similar effects on driving safety.

From a safety perspective, one would expect more studies on the use of electronic devices being performed not only by the AAA, but also by the car and electronics companies providing such systems.

In a new car I was driving a few days ago, the operating system warned me not to use the touch screen for entering the navigation information, but instead use the voice command system. May be they should recognize that that may not be such a great idea either.

For more information on the report please go to website of AAA for more information. You can download the complete study for free. – Norbert Hildebrand