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Is your new car making you a worse driver?

Could your car actually be making you a worse driver? If you have a newer vehicle with a lot of bells and whistles, it just might.

New cars today seem to have just about everything. Climbing into a fully-loaded upscale vehicle can sometimes resemble climbing into the cockpit of an airplane.

All those bells and whistles -- which take the form of buttons and dials on the dashboard that are part of the growing trend toward giving cars their own "infotainment" systems -- may be adding more distractions to those that drivers already face.

The human brain is just not meant to handle the multitasking it takes to manage all the systems that are being put in new vehicles even when some of these vehicles are in "Park." It only gets worse when the cars are in motion.

Researchers studied 30 different vehicles from various manufacturers, all 2017 models, and found that each of them pulled drivers away from their primary task: driving. Among their conclusions:

  • Every single vehicle in the study required drivers to divert their physical and mental attention away from the road in order to operate the built-in tech.
  • All the technology promoted as "hands-free" required drivers to either take a hand off the wheel or their eyes off the road at some point during operation.
  • The technology is often difficult to operate. Voice commands often fail to work properly, frustrating drivers or causing them to divert their attention from the road as they search for manual controls.
  • Practice did nothing to improve the process for most drivers. Those who practiced with the vehicles before driving had just as much trouble as those who didn't.
  • People using their cellphones for the same tasks may be safer than those trying to use the integrated systems in their cars.

Currently, there's no federal mandate on car manufacturers to install programs that will disable the use of these programs while a car is in motion -- although that is what is recommended.

If you've been the victim of a driver who was distracted by one of these infotainment systems in his or her car, make sure that you discuss the issue with your attorney. That could be an important consideration if you file a lawsuit over your injuries. It's possible that the car's manufacturer may also bear some responsibility for the accident.

Source: WTOP, "Your car can now cause distracted driving," Max Smith, Oct. 05, 2017

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