The car accessories that make driving a danger

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Confirming what we’ve been saying for some time, a recent study by What Car? in the UK has identified the most distracting in-car infotainment systems.

While the manufacturers continue to insist that in-car systems are designed to reduce distraction while driving, we beg to differ.

Twenty different in-car systems were tested that encompass the majority of the different types of infotainment systems and dashboard layouts on offer in the latest new cars. What Car?’s testers performed six tasks that drivers frequently do while on the move, including changing the temperature, zooming out on a set sat-nav route and changing from one radio station to another, with each action timed.

Distracted driving accounted for 15 per cent of all road accidents in 2018, compared to 13 per cent in 2016 and 14 per cent in 2017 (UK figures), according to Department for Transport data. We’d go so far as to suggest those numbers are very much on the low side. In fatal collisions, distracted driving was a contributory factor in 25 per cent of incidents. Every second spent looking away can be dangerous, as a vehicle moving at 60km/h will travel almost 17m every second.

The research demonstrates that systems with physical buttons are much less distracting to use on the move than those that can only be altered using a touchscreen. We at seniordriveraus have been receiving plenty of feedback from our readers that confirms that drivers much prefer simpler controls, and we’ve been passing it on to manufacturers who just don’t want to listen.

It took twice as long to adjust heating controls on some cars with touchscreen controls rather than physical dials. And it took up to four times longer to zoom out of the sat-nav map to view a pre-programmed route using a touchscreen than it did using a rotary dial controller. The easiest systems for adjusting the sat-nav map were Audi’s Virtual Cockpit Plus and BMW’s iDrive, while the most fiddly was the Lexus 12.3in multimedia display. Regular readers will recall that we never fail to complain about the Lexus control system, and especially the touchscreen on the console.

The tests also highlighted the benefits of having a range of different ways of doing a task, so the driver can choose the most convenient for each situation. The best systems let you use physical buttons, the touchscreen or voice control to do a wide range of commands.

Using a sophisticated voice control system is the least distracting way of doing many tasks. The systems in the Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz all recognise natural speech, so you can activate them by talking and then ask them to carry out your desired task and hardly take your eyes off the road at all. However, not all voice control systems are as intuitive or fast to respond; What Car?’s testers were looking away from the road for more than twice as long in cars with the worst systems.

Steve Huntingford, editor of What Car?, said: “Distracted drivers are a factor in a growing number of road accidents, so it’s important to choose a car with controls that are responsive and easy to use while you drive. The best systems provide physical buttons and voice control, while those that are most distracting have sluggish touchscreens and require too many steps to carry out commands.”

Do you think in-car infotainment systems are a driving hazard?

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Written by wordsmith


Total Comments: 9
  1. 0

    Finally, someone has put it into print. But the governments are still in the pockets of the car manufacturers and the crash figures will always enable the governments to increase their “Road Safety Tax”. Cars are safer than evr now except for the driver and distracting the driver will usually lead to errors and crashes. Of course, governments will always blame the Fatal Four and the Profitable Fifth.

  2. 0

    Totally agree! If there was a choice I would opt for a low tech car. I find all the controls on the steering wheel terrible, apart on the Citroen, where the controls don’t move with the steering wheel. I think there may be an agenda to get us softened up for eventually turning over control to the self drive car.

  3. 0

    I’m surprised the government allows cars to be registered with all the distracting gadgets on board. My daughters new car came with a large screen sitting just below the central dash which does everything but cook your breakfast as you drive. How come it’s against the law to text and drive yet it’s ok to sell cars with these eye magnet devices which are designed to demand your attention with flashing graphics etc. I wonder how we survived in the cars we had back in the day. If we had a radio and a heater we were flash.Who remembers buying the car radio separately and fitting the same one to each car you bought.

    • 0

      Imany years ago, I bought a Renault Dauphine, that didn’t have a radio, so I put my portable radio on tha back of the car, and I thought this is ‘flash’. There weren’t many cars with radios in the late 50s. I can’t remember if it had a heater, but if it did, it woulld have been what I have on my Hyundai now, dials which you can change without even looking . With trhe modern screens, as long as you set it and leave it there, that should be ok.

    • 0

      Yes, I do remember now having a new tradio fitted into another car I had, That would have been a Turbocharged Dauphine in Guernsey, C.I.

  4. 0

    We ( were in a car last week with the most annoying Lane Keep Assist function. It was like being 16 and having your mother reach over and grab the wheel when she thought you were drifting out of your lane. There were two levels of assistance: intrusive, and very intrusive. I finally discovered how to to totally disable Lane Keep Assistance … and it took 18 separate steps! To make matters worse, the system defaulted to “on” every time you restarted the car. We’ve passed on our observations (and those of our readers) to the compan concerned.

    • 0

      My LKA only comes on with a button when I want it to.

      Mine has multiple settings for the assistance it gives. I love it, on the freeway it helps turn the wheel, for the corners, very subtle, makes it feel like four wheel steering almost. As it’s helping with the steering it gives a more relaxed feel on our regular 700 km drive.

  5. 0

    I gotta agree with the article. i cannot understand how gov. claims using a phone is more distracting than the display screens seemingly fitted to cars(probably end up on motor bikes too). These devices have got to be a HUGE distraction to the average driver.
    i also am not at all a fan of the latest crop of so-called driver assist devices like lane keep stuff and auto braking. i want to be in control of my driving not something programmed by a computer nerd in an office. See latest recall for harley bikes. Faulty programming causes engine to stop and not restart.Reduce the amount of electronic crap in cars , teach proper driving skills and I’m sure things will improve and make cars cheaper too!

    • 0

      Phones are more distracting because people are holding them in their laps, looking down and reading/typing on a small screen which obviously is distracting, doing SMS’s and using the internet. remember phones CAN be used for phone calls if mounted correctly.

      Lane keep assist isn’t to allow the car to drive itself, it’s to facilitate steering on gentle bends (like freeways), it’s takes away some of the effort and makes the car feel like it handles the bend better, this in turn reduces fatigue on long drives.



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