New Auto Tech Equals Distracted Driving

As I read the daily news reports from NMA, I notice that traffic fatalities have climbed in the last couple of years. The phrase “distracted driving” also keeps cropping up. This correlates with the recent introduction of massive in-car, multi-function computer installations. It would seem that new car complexity may be a contributing factor to the distracted driving.

Am I the only one to recognize a correlation between the rise in automobile complexity and the rise in traffic fatalities? As mentioned previously, most new cars feature rather large and mind-numbingly complex in-dash display screens that feature multiple applications including numerous means of controlling heater fan speed, several diverse means of activating the front or rear windshield defrosters, etc.

Media and law enforcement have loudly shrieked about the dangers of distracted driving while using cell phones, but everyone seems to ignore multiple functions and settings on the central dashboard computer. Some cars also include GPS which adds another layer of driving distraction. Vermont has a common sense law banning use by the driver of all hand-held electronic devices. How soon before the central in-dash computer display is also considered a distraction?

As a passenger I find it impossible to tune the radio without prolonged and intense concentration on what I’m doing. Formerly a plain pushbutton radio would select your station preset, but now with a multiplicity of controls it’s impossible to tune a particular station without concentrated attention and prolonged distraction.

Does the ignoring of built-in in-dash distractions give a free pass to automobile manufacturers because of their lobbying power?

I forecast eventual recognition of the built-in automotive computer distractions will be recognized and that a massive class action lawsuit may change thinking and car design. If a cell phone is a distraction, the in-dash computer center with innumerable functions, applications, variations and permutations has to also be a distraction of major proportions.

As a former commercial pilot there’s no way I could cope with that level of complexity and information overload without at least a co-pilot and preferably flight engineer as well.

Because of in-dash computer technology being used as tech attraction for car buyers, regulation is slow to come but after sufficient lives are lost perhaps the overabundance of technology will be recognized for the danger it is.

For anyone not convinced of my position, I recommend they ride in the front passenger seat of a new car equipped with this technology and try to imagine the driver operating the vehicle at highway speeds in close proximity to other cars and trucks while attempting to successfully interact with the onboard computer center.

There is a limit to the amount of information overload to which a motorist should be subjected while anticipating an acceptable level of safety.

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3 Responses to “New Auto Tech Equals Distracted Driving”

  1. James C. Walker says:

    I purchased a new 2018 VW GTI, the plainer S model. Some key advantages are a conventionally-tuned radio with volume and station knobs, an infotainment screen with a default of totally off with no display, none of the nanny-state driver assist systems which are often annoying or distracting, no stop-start feature at traffic lights, and a conventional ignition key with a chip so the car cannot be started by a hacker without the key.

  2. John Carr says:

    I wish NHTSA had the guts to issue a recall over driver distraction instead of following their current policy of having police watch people stopped at lights to look for signs of cell phone use.

  3. Henry Stowe says:

    Excellent article. I also find it instructive that no one is studying this issue to any great degree. I avoid all cars with complex driver interfaces. Yes, fatalities and accidents have been climbing and this plays a role in it. No doubt.