Older motorists are more likely to be distracted by technology in vehicles than younger drivers, according to an AAA Carolinas Foundation for Traffic Safety report released recently.
The report defined older drivers as those ages 55 to 75, and younger drivers as those 21 to 36.
The foundation said the technology “has the potential to increase comfort and extend mobility for older drivers, but first it has to stop distracting them.”
For example, the report found older drivers removed their eyes and attention from the road for an average of 8.6 seconds, compared with 4.7 seconds for younger drivers, when performing tasks, such as programming the navigation or tuning the radio.
Some of the vehicle infotainment systems included multiple menus and cumbersome voice-command functions “that significantly reduced older drivers’ ability to easily complete seemingly simple tasks.”
The report was conducted in collaboration with researchers from the University of Utah.
“Taking your eyes off the road for just two seconds doubles a driver’s risk of a crash,” the foundation said.
“Voice-command functions found in new in-vehicle technology are intended to help drivers by keeping their eyes and attention on the road,” said Tiffany Wright, the foundation’s president. “Unfortunately, the complexity and poor design of some of these systems could cause more harm for older drivers, in particular, instead of helping them.”
By 2030, more than 1 in 5 drivers on the road will be 65 or older.
In 2018, there were 46,524 reported wrecks involving a driver 65 or older, resulting in the deaths of 305 older drivers, according to the state N.C. Department of Transportation.
Recommendations from the report include: improving voice-command technology; simplifying software menus; removing complex center-console controls; and positioning system controls to allow drivers to keep their eyes on the road.
“Those changes would better meet the needs of older adults and make the systems safer for all drivers,” according to researchers.
AAA Carolinas offered other suggestions that include: avoiding interacting with in-vehicle infotainment technology while driving except for legitimate emergencies; and practicing using the voice command and touch screen functions when not driving to build comfort in case emergency use is required.
Richard Craver is a reporter with the Winston-Salem Journal.
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