How technology in cars may be distracting drivers
March 2, 2023
In February 2022, drivers were 30 percent more distracted on the road than they were in 2020, making it the worst month of phone distraction since 2019—according to data collected byCambridge Mobile Telematics.
Distracted driving remained a constant issue throughout all of 2022, without its usual dip during the winter months when weather usually encourages even the most notorious offenders to keep the distractions to a minimum. Which begs the question, what’s driving (no pun intended) the consistent issue of distracted driving?
With your undivided attention, we’ll share some key insights we’ve learned about what’s leading distracted driving trends and why the tech in your hands and car may not be doing you many favors.
Key contributors to distracted driving
These days it's easy to have a love-hate relationship with technology. It’s provided innovative and accessible solutions for drivers, but it's also contributed to some glaring issues on the road. From the tech found in your hand (cellphones), to the technology in the cars themselves—here’s how distracting it’s become in the last few years.
Tech in your hands
The smartphone. It has your favorite streaming services, the latest news, email, text messages, Internet and the occasional brain game. Carrie Underwood once said, “My cellphone is my best friend. It’s my lifeline to the outside world.”
Can you relate?
The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA), reports that at least 10 percent of a driver’s time behind the wheel is distracted. To put that into perspective, if someone takes a trip to the grocery store (30 minutes), they’re spending atleast three minutes of that driving time distracted by their phone.
Three minutes? That’s it? While that may not seem like much, consider what can happen in just 3 minutes, or less. In an interview about distracted driving, lead instructor of the Arizona Chapter of the National Safety Council, Ed Taube said:
“The average text takes only four seconds to read, but four seconds at 55 MPH at 80 feet per second is 320 feet. That’s the size of a football field that you would effectively be driving blind while reading a text.
It may take three or four seconds to read that text from a friend, but those three or four seconds could cause you to not have time to react to a car that suddenly stopped in front of you or a person that stepped out into the street.”
So while three minutes doesn’t seem like a lot of time to be on your phone while driving, it only takes seconds for the unexpected to happen. In just one year from 2020 to 2021 NHTSA reported that the percentage of drivers manipulating devices while driving (cellphones and infotainment systems in cars) has increased from 2.8 to 3.4 percent. For every 100 cars on the road 10 more people are likely distracted by their devices.
With so many people looking at their phone, who still has their eyes on the road?
Tech in your car
We mentioned the increase of drivers distracted in 2021 and its direct correlation with folks operating cellphones and infotainment systems while driving. What is an infotainment system? It’s the hub inside your car, the media system found in your car that allows you to access information and entertainment easily.
Typically as a touchscreen or display mounted on (or in) the dashboard in the middle of the car, infotainment systems have increased in size and capabilities, with some bigger than the tablet you have at home.
With the technology in cars advancing at a rapid pace, new rides may start feeling like computers on wheels. Are the larger-than-life infotainment screens in cars leading to increased distracted driving? Research says yes.
Screens are taking up quite a bit of landscape inside of cars, and safety experts are paying close attention. A University of Utah study found that new car infotainment may be too dangerous to use safely. The research discovered that participants' eyes were off the road for long periods of time and engaged in complex interactions with the car technology—voice-based and touchscreen.
In a 2020 study conducted by the IAM RoadSmart charity to assess the reaction time drivers had when engaging with in-car infotainment systems through voice and touch control. Here were the key findings:
Drivers had a reduction in average speed as a response to increased mental demand
Drivers had an increased deviation lane position (drifting)
Drivers reaction time to stimulus was higher when engaging with the touchscreen
Drivers reported touch was more difficult and distracting versus voice-command
Drivers took their eyes off the road longer than the NHTSA recommended guidelines
To clarify, a low response time is a good thing. It highlights the amount of time you have to make a decision while driving. An undistracted driver typically reacts within a second, according to the same research by IAM RoadSmart.
The research is ongoing when it comes to the technology in cars and its influence on a driver’s focus behind the wheel. Without the right regulations and restrictions, infotainment systems in vehicles could have a bigger impact on not only the number of distracted drivers on the road, but the car insurance industry as well.
Does distracted driving impact car insurance?
With distracted driving becoming a more pressing issue now more than ever, you have to wonder if it’s impacting other areas beyond the road. And let us remind you, distracted driving doesn’t solely come from the larger-than-life screens found inside new cars. It’s eating your lunch, texting a friend, putting on your makeup, getting something from the back seat—the list goes on. These are all decisions that can lead to distracted driving.
If you’re someone who thinks multitasking behind the wheel didn’t hurt anyone, think again. Not only can it increase your chance to get into an accident but it may hurt your car insurance rate. You heard that right.
If your distracted driving ever led you to have a history of traffic violations or accidents that were caused by distracted driving, your car insurance company may take that into consideration when determining your rate.
A history of traffic violations and accidents caused by distracted driving equals risk to car insurers and believe us, it’s not something to necessarily be proud of. Because risk can only mean one thing: a bigger rate—making it a less-than-ideal situation for your wallet.
Distraction-free driving tips
Driving distraction-free could best be summarized into a phrase you may have heard before, “saying and doing are two different things.” It’s one thing to say something, “I’ll drive without texting” versus actually doing it.
Unfortunately, we live in a time where tech is ingrained in our decisions, our behaviors and lives. And that makes it difficult to reach the “doing” aspect of distraction-free driving—especially when it’s glaring right at us from inside of the car (hello, infotainment system).
Here are some baby steps you can take to navigate a tech-filled car and life to help alleviate your distractions from behind the wheel:
Don’t engage with your infotainment technology while driving
Familiarize yourself with the touchscreen and its functions
Implement voice commands
Use your phone's settings like 'Do Not Disturb' to turn on automatically while driving
And lastly, if it's really important, pull over to the side of the road to address the text or get something from the back seat or make sure to get everything ready before driving. These are small things you can implement to help you be less distracted while driving.
At HiRoad, we’re big on driving distraction-free. With the number of folks driving on the road today, it’s important to find ways to reward those who go the extra mile while driving. For those who aren’t shy about technology, practice good driving habits and are big on savings, consider HiRoad.
Our behavior-based car insurance model uses the power of telematics technology to reward drivers for making the safe, smart and distraction-free decisions from behind the wheel with monthly savings on their insurance bill.
This is one form of innovative tech you know you’ll want to get behind. Learn more about HiRoad today.
The information in this article was obtained from various sources not associated with HiRoad®. While we believe it to be reliable and accurate, we do not warrant the accuracy or reliability of the information. HiRoad is not responsible for, and does not endorse or approve, either implicitly or explicitly, the content of any third party sites that might be hyperlinked from this page. The information is not intended to replace manuals, instructions or information provided by a manufacturer or the advice of a qualified professional, or to affect coverage under any applicable insurance policy. These suggestions are not a complete list of every loss control measure. HiRoad makes no guarantees of results from use of this information.
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