The information and entertainment screens in cars are getting larger, and this worries road safety experts in Pennsylvania and around the country. Mercedes-Benz recently unveiled an electric sedan that features a screen that is 56 inches wide, and vehicles already available from manufacturers, including Tesla and Porsche, have electronic displays almost as big. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says driver distraction is one of the nation’s most serious road safety issues, but government regulators seem unwilling to put restrictions into place that could harm car sales.
In 2019, researchers from the American Automobile Association discovered that drivers’ eyes are off the road for up to 10 seconds when they use touchscreens in vehicles to adjust audio or climate settings. Programing addresses into navigation systems takes far longer. Results like this are particularly concerning for advocacy groups because a vehicle traveling at highway speeds covers about 160 yards in eight seconds, and just two seconds of someone looking away from the road doubles his or her chances of crashing.
A dangerous mix
The results of a University of Utah study published in October 2017 are even more alarming. The researchers observed volunteers as they used automobile touchscreens in 30 different vehicles to perform a variety of tasks, and they discovered that some of them took as long as 40 seconds to complete. The researchers concluded that technology and driving do not mix.
Evidence of distracted driving
While the screens in many new cars may increase accident risk, the electronic systems they are connected to could provide personal injury attorneys with evidence of distraction. Modern automobiles store large amounts of data under their hoods, which could reveal that drivers failed to take evasive action and were likely not watching the road when they crashed. Attorneys may also use subpoenas to obtain cellphone records in distracted driving cases.