Why Drivers Are More Distracted Than Ever

by Staff | December 14th, 2020

At Fleschner, Stark, Tanoos & Newlin, we know the dangers of distracted driving. That’s why we ask all drivers to take part in our Drop the Distraction Pledge. Taking your focus off the road has always been one of the most dangerous things you can do while driving. But for most of the time that vehicles have been around, distractions to drivers were limited.

Drivers could change their radio dials, get distracted by sights out the window, or reach for items in their gloveboxes, but those distractions were infrequent and short-lived. The widespread adoption of cell phones in the early 21st century changed that, however, and suddenly millions of drivers had the potential to be heavily distracted by calls, texts, videos, and social media at any moment.

Thankfully, distracted driving deaths have been on a steady decrease since reaching a high of 3,526 deaths in 2015. A big part of that is due to increased awareness campaigns, law enforcement patrols, and hands-free smartphone connectivity. But due to the greater prevalence of in-dash technology, the opportunities for drivers to be distracted is greater than ever.

Infotainment Technology May Be to Blame

Today’s vehicles are loaded with technology, gadgets, and all kinds of bells and whistles. What previously was available only on luxury models is now included or even mandatory in even base models. For example, backup cameras became required in all new vehicles beginning in May 2018. While that addition is helpful for reducing back-over accidents and making backing up and parallel easier, it also means all new vehicles have screens that can be used for other purposes.

So, how do infotainment screens distract drivers?

The screens are bright and eye-catching.

The menus and apps of in-dash screens are designed to be colorful, bright, and attention-grabbing. They follow the same design philosophies of gadgets like smartphones and tablets, which are designed to draw users’ eyes to them and keep them there for long periods of time. For many drivers, doing something as simple as changing the radio station using the infotainment system can mean they look away from the road for longer than they normally would.

The screens may be more difficult to control and operate.

Touchscreens have been all the rage for years due to smartphones and tablets, but they aren’t always ideal—especially when you’re driving. Touchscreens aren’t always 100% responsive, and even changing the volume may require multiple attempts depending on screen sensitivity or glare. Whereas drivers could once turn a knob, now they may need to take their eyes off the road for a few seconds to ensure they’re touching the right place on their touchscreens.

The screens have multiple layers of menus to navigate.

Want to change your radio station? Want to connect a new device over Bluetooth? Want to get directions to your destination mid-drive? All of these tasks may require navigating increasingly deep and complex menus as vehicle infotainment systems become more and more loaded with features and apps. And while voice commands may work for starting some functions, they aren’t always reliable, and when they don’t work correctly, drivers may get frustrated and become even more distracted.

Safety Technology Can Also Paradoxically Put Drivers at Risk

For years, drivers needed to check their blind spots using their mirrors and eye checks before turning or changing lanes. They also needed to constantly be aware of their lane positioning and correct it if they began to drift to one side of the highway. But safety technology like blind-spot monitoring and lane-departure warnings and assist features have made those requirements seemingly less important for many drivers.

As a result, drivers are either over-reliant on those features, or they get distracted by them. For example, drivers may still check their mirrors and turn their heads before attempting to change lanes, but they may be distracted or startled by their vehicles’ warning systems—even if they knew they couldn’t change lanes yet.

Another possibility is drivers overcorrecting their lane positioning if their departure warning system activates. Instead of focusing on the road, they focus on the sounds, lights, and vibrations they feel when they begin to drift. That can make them slower to respond to the movements of other vehicles ahead of them.

We Help Drivers Injured by Distracted Motorists

Vehicle sales figures don’t lie. New cars, trucks, and SUVs are retailing at higher and higher prices every year, and Americans are paying those prices because they demand the latest and greatest in technology and safety features. But the technological arms race among vehicle manufacturers could be putting drivers at risk, as smartphones were already the catalyst behind the distracted driving epidemic of the 2010s.

At Fleschner, Stark, Tanoos & Newlin, it’s our goal to help people hurt by negligent drivers. And in 2021 and beyond, that often means distracted drivers. If you or someone you love was hurt by a distracted driver, we want to help you get compensation for your medical bills and lost wages. Contact us today for a free consultation.

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