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In-Car Distractions from Infotainment and Auto Accident Liability

Distracted driving caused the loss of 3,142 lives for the most recent year for which data is available, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Distracted driving also leads to another 400,000 injuries every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Distractions can generally be broken down into two categories: External distractions that happen outside the car and internal distractions that happen inside the car. Using infotainment systems and cell phones while driving are two types of internal distractions that can have catastrophic consequences.

Do In-Car Electronics Cause More Distractions While Driving?

Car manufacturers often advertise infotainment systems as a safe way to stay connected while driving. However, the research indicates otherwise. Researchers at the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that the average driver took their eyes off the road for up to 40 seconds to complete a task related to infotainment systems. This is a significant finding, considering the oft-cited statistic that reading a single text message on a phone takes 5 seconds, equal to the length of a football field if traveling at 55 mph. Other experts say your crash risk doubles by taking your eyes off the road for just two seconds.

Infotainment systems and cell phones can be dangerous because they involve all three types of distractions the CDC identifies:

  • Visual distractions, which take a driver’s eyes off the road
  • Manual distractions, which take a driver’s hands off the wheel
  • Cognitive distractions, which take a driver’s mind off driving

Top Driving Distractions

Some of the top driving distractions that in-car technology systems create include:

Texting/Reading texts with Apple Car Play

Apple Car Play and Android Auto integrate with many infotainment systems so that a driver can connect their phone to their vehicle. They are notified if they receive a text and can see it from the infotainment system instead of checking it on their phone. However, this activity is still dangerous, even on an infotainment system.

As part of the AAA study, researchers found that while Apple CarPlay and Android Auto were faster than a vehicle’s native system for completing tasks, they still create potentially unsafe levels of demand.

Handsfree call

Handsfree calls are not necessarily safer than handheld calls. Drivers may be mentally distracted during and even after the call. They may also mistakenly think this is safer, which can make them complacent when driving.

Voice commands

In-car systems are often activated by voice commands. However, the technology isn’t perfect. A driver may have to repeat the same command over and over again to get the system to perform the requested action. The driver can also be distracted by trying to cancel unwanted actions.

Using the GPS

According to the AAA study, inputting information into the GPS was the most demanding task for infotainment systems, taking an average of 40 seconds to complete.

Adjusting Audio/Climate Control

Adjusting audio or climate controls are other common distractions while driving. This simple action can take your eyes off the road for a few seconds, which can lead to a car accident.

How to Minimize Distractions

  • Don’t multitask – Driving is a complex task that requires your full attention.
  • Don’t eat/drink – Eating or drinking can cause distracting spills or other mishaps.
  • Avoid complicated tasks – Avoid completing complex tasks like working or using voice-activated systems while driving.
  • Never use your phone while driving – If you have to make a phone call or text, pull over to a safe spot first.
  • Make all adjustments before hitting the road – Input information into your GPS, have a snack, and adjust the thermostat before you begin driving.

Can Automakers Be Held Liable for In-Car Distractions?

Automakers can be held liable in situations in which they manufacture a product that poses an unacceptable risk to consumers. If the vehicle is inherently dangerous, an injured victim may try to pursue a product liability suit based on a manufacturing or design defect. However, product liability cases are often highly complex.

Court results involving in-car distractions are constantly developing and these precedents will affect all future litigation. As lawsuits continue to emerge, the precedent pool will grow and outcomes can be better anticipated.

 Dallas Distracted Driving Lawyer

If you were injured by a distracted driver who was texting or using an infotainment system right before the collision, Tate Law Offices, P.C. can help. Contact us today for your free case review with an experienced car accident lawyer.


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