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Are Bigger Screens in New Vehicles Dangerous?

Posted on: January 29, 2021

In-vehicle infotainment screens are getting bigger, and they are becoming more distracting. Touchscreen interfaces that allow drivers to program navigation, listen to the radio, and make phone calls are supposed to help drivers stay off their phones while driving. However, these bigger, more technologically advanced screens in new vehicles may be doing just the opposite, according to a recent study by the AAA Foundation for Safety and the University of Utah.

Drivers who suffer a personal injury in an accident caused by a distraction such as a large touchscreen dashboard display are encouraged to contact an experienced car accident lawyer for assistance.

Are Dashboard Displays Distracting?

Safety concerns over driver distraction continue to mount as more automakers adopt large dashboard displays. These displays, measuring up to 56 inches, are one of the latest trends in new passenger vehicles. Auto manufacturers argue that large, high-tech displays are less distracting than smaller, less responsive ones. Also, buyers have come to expect bigger and better screens, not only in phones and tablets, but also in vehicles.   

However, large dashboard displays raise a red flag when it comes to safety. New research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety and the University of Utah shows that the visual and cognitive demand created by infotainment systems can be a source of distraction, especially for older drivers.

Whereas users could feel and identify analog buttons without taking their eyes off the road, the new touch screens lack the same tactile interface and therefore require users to look at the buttons they are pressing. This causes drivers to take their eyes off the road for even longer than if they were using older technology. Even voice-command functions can do more harm than good, owing to poor design or complexity, according to the executive director of the AAA Foundation for Safety.

Are Older Drivers Most Affected by Bigger Screens?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that in 2018, 6,907 people aged 65 and older were killed in traffic crashes, accounting for 19 percent of all traffic fatalities that year. As people age, their eyesight, reflexes, and overall driving ability may deteriorate. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cites declines in vision and cognitive functioning as probable reasons why older drivers have higher death crash rates than middle-aged drivers.

Researchers in the AAA Foundation for Safety/University of Utah study found that on average, drivers ages 55 to 75 took their eyes off the road for more than eight seconds longer than younger drivers when interacting with infotainment technology. This is a significant amount of time, especially considering that when drivers remove their eyes from the road for just two seconds, they double their risk of a crash.

The AAA estimates that more than one in five drivers will be over the age of 65 by 2030. To better safeguard this growing at-risk population, researchers in the co-authored study tested the level of distraction that comes with new in-vehicle technology. Participants were asked to make a call, send a text message, tune the radio, or program navigation using interactive technologies while driving. Although the technology presented a distraction to all drivers, those in the 55 to 55 age group were distracted for longer than those in the 21 to 36 age group.

For example, younger drivers took an average of 18 seconds, while older drivers took an average of 25.4 seconds, to program audio entertainment. Drivers 21 to 36 years old took an average of 17.7 seconds to call and dial, 27.7 seconds to send a text message, and 31.4 seconds to make a navigation entry, as compared with drivers aged 55 to 75 years old, who took an average of 22.4, 33.8, and 40 seconds, respectively.

Researchers found that older drivers generally took longer to complete tasks, had slower reaction times, and experienced increased visual distractions as compared with younger drivers. Multiple menus, complex command functions, and other cumbersome designs all contribute to the distracting nature of in-vehicle infotainment systems. According to the AAA director of traffic safety advocacy and research, car manufacturers must design systems to meet the needs of the aging driving population.

The problem with this suggestion is that car manufacturers do not have the same level of expertise as smartphone manufacturers. In-vehicle technology therefore often trails behind smartphones in terms of design advancement. However, there continues to be new developments in both voice control systems and intelligent, eye-tracking technology that automakers hope will help drivers keep their hands on the wheel and their eyes on the road.

What are Some Safety Tips for Vehicles Equipped with Infotainment Technology?

Distracted driving endangers everyone on the road. The NHTSA reports that 2,841 people were killed in traffic crashes in 2018 alone. Not just infotainment systems, but any activity that takes a driver’s attention off the road is dangerous. Some common distractions include texting, eating, looking in the mirror, and reaching for objects in the car.

Large-screen infotainment systems can be categorized as all three types of distractions identified by the CDC: visual, manual, and cognitive. When interacting with a dashboard display, similar to texting, drivers take their eyes off the road, their hands off the wheel, and their mind off driving. To avoid distracted driving accidents, the AAA recommends the following for drivers:

  • Practice using in-vehicle technology before driving.
  • Avoid interacting with technology while driving as much as possible.
  • Do not drive vehicles that require the use of a center console controller.

Can New Jersey Car Accident Victims Obtain Compensation for Their Injuries?

New Jersey follows the no-fault car insurance system, which requires drivers to obtain compensation from their own insurance company for any losses arising out of an accident. Although this allows car accident victims to obtain reimbursement for their expenses quickly, it also limits their right to sue an at-fault party for additional damages, such as pain and suffering. Injured drivers are therefore restricted by the limits of their insurance policy unless their injuries meet the threshold for serious injuries.

In New Jersey, those who sustain what are considered to be serious injuries may step outside the no-fault system and sue the driver responsible for the accident. Qualifying serious injuries may include dismemberment, disfigurement, scarring, or other permanent injuries.

If an injured driver is able to sue the driver who caused the accident, they must do so within the statute of limitations, which is two years from the date of the accident. New Jersey follows the modified comparative fault rule in car accident cases in which more than one party is to blame. This rule states that a plaintiff’s damage award will be reduced in accordance with their percentage of fault. Therefore, once the plaintiff’s damage award has been calculated, it will be reduced by a percentage equal to their fault. For example, if a plaintiff is awarded $50,000 but they were 10 percent to blame for the accident, they will receive $45,000, or 10 percent less than $50,000.

However, this rule applies only if the plaintiff was no more than 50 percent at fault. If the injured driver was more than 50 percent to blame for the accident, he or she is barred from recovery entirely and may not collect compensation from the other at-fault party. Cases in which more than one party bears fault can be complex; therefore, those who are injured in car accidents are advised to seek the assistance of an experienced lawyer in their area.

Freehold Car Accident Lawyers at Ellis Law Hold Distracted Drivers Accountable

If you were injured in a car accident caused by a distracted driver, contact the Freehold car accident lawyers at Ellis Law. You may be entitled to various types of compensation for your injuries and losses. We will work tirelessly on your behalf to protect your rights and achieve a successful outcome. Call us at 732-308-0200 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Freehold, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout East Brunswick, Toms River, Middletown, Jersey City, Neptune, Hudson County, Union County, Essex County, and Ocean County, as well as Brooklyn and New York, New York.