Are High-tech Dashboards Safer For Drivers?

There has been a lot made about improving safety in automobiles over the last 60 years. From seat belts to air bags to side-curtain airbags to crumple zones to rear-view cameras, there have been many advancements in car design to improve safety and reduce car accidents and accident severity.

There has always been a push to make driving safer by developing software that allows drivers to keep their hands on the steering wheel while adjusting the radio, the temperature or setting cruise control. With buttons on the steering wheel or various voice controls, on the one hand, drivers have been able to maintain more physical control of their vehicles.

50% of Driving is 90% Mental

While there is a lot of advancement so drivers keep their hands on the wheel, much of effective driving is a mental process, including processing visual cues in observing traffic, weather and the presence of pedestrians. Distracted driving can occur even if a driver has both hands physically on the wheel. Having a mind distracted can have just as much an effect on accidents as removing hands from the wheel.

Eyes that move from the road to a high-tech dashboard, for example, in order to access certain buttons or actions for the vehicle can still lead to accidents, and they have. Studies recently have found that several automakers have created high-tech dashboards that are the most distracting to drivers, and thus are the ones that might actually put drivers more at risk for accidents.

A Focused Mind and Body

One of the recent studies, conducted by researchers at the University of Utah, has found that the more “infotainment” is placed in easy reach of a driver, the higher the risk for that driver to be distracted. A driver’s hands may be on the steering wheel, but he or she may be accessing GPS, a hands-free phone device, the radio, the heating/cooling or some other aspect of driver comfort, instead of keeping the mind on the road. With so many possible distractions, it is easy for a driver to lose focus and get in an accident even with both hands firmly on the wheel.

Block Out the Noise

The hope is that this research will eventually lead automakers to scale back their high-tech dashboards and simplify a driver’s experience. A driver needs to have both hands on the wheel and mindfully engaged with the road and traffic to ensure safety. These studies are hopefully revealing that automakers may be working too hard on the physical and further taxing the mental part of driving. Find out more about the effects of distracted driving when you contact one of our Memphis personal-injury attorneys to discuss the circumstances surrounding your recent auto accident. It is time to know that hands-free does not mean mind-free.