Forget texting, the most risky distractions for drivers come with the vehicle

The study, led by psychology professor David Strayer, found in-vehicle information systems - including SatNav, MP3 players, radios, cellphones and messaging devices - take drivers' attention off the road for too long to be safe, much like texting.

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety commissioned researchers from the University of Utah to investigate the visual and cognitive demands of the systems.

"Drivers want technology that is safe and easy to use, but numerous features added to infotainment systems today have resulted in overly complex and sometimes frustrating user experiences for drivers", said Marshall Doney, President of the AAA.

Participants in the AAA study were required to use voice commands and touch screens to make calls, send text messages, tune the radio or program navigation while driving. AAA researchers said that at 25 miles per hour, a person could cover the length of four football fields in 40 seconds. Programming navigation and sending a text message.

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None of the systems put a "low" level of demand on drivers.

With one in three US adults using infotainment systems while driving, AAA cautions drivers that using these technologies while behind the wheel can have risky consequences. "And drivers should avoid the temptation to engage with these technologies, especially for non-driving tasks", said Doney.

Fatal crashes are on the rise in the USA, and distracted driving is a major reason for the increase, the foundation believes.

"What we're seeing is that many of these companies have enabled technology that's very demanding and not consistent with the NHTSA guidelines". The study found that drivers remain distracted for up to 27 seconds after performing such a task. "This review will examine the effectiveness of using this new emerging technology to crack down on this reckless behavior and thoroughly evaluate its implications", he told the AP. It wants auto makers to disable some features such as programming a navigation route while the vehicle is moving.

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That's the conclusion from new research on distracted driving released Thursday by AAA's Center for Driving Safety and Technology.

AAA said drivers should use infotainment technologies "only for legitimate emergencies or urgent, driving-related purposes".

NY state's Democratic governor, Andrew Cuomo, told the Associated Press in July that the state is testing technology that will allow police to identify drivers who are texting and driving.

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