Traffic accident fatality figures have risen sharply in New Jersey and around the country in recent years, and most road safety experts say a surge in distracted driving is most likely responsible. This problem is most often blamed on cellphone use behind the wheel, but the sophisticated information and entertainment systems found in most new cars also seem to be playing a role. Programming navigation routes into these systems or changing audio settings can take several seconds, and a report released on July 25 by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety suggests that older drivers are especially prone to distraction when using them.
Researchers from the University of Utah observed 218 drivers as they used the infotainment systems of cars made by Volvo, Cadillac, Nissan, Mazda, Audi and Lincoln, and they found that older drivers took up to 8.6 seconds longer to complete basic tasks such as changing a radio station or making a phone call. This is a problem because a car traveling at highway speeds covers about 100 yards every five seconds.
Many cars now feature entertainment and information systems that can be controlled by voice commands, but the researchers discovered that this feature can actually make the equipment more difficult for older drivers to use. The researchers say car makers should concentrate less on packing their technology with features and place a higher emphasis on making it easy to use.
When their clients may have been injured in a car accident caused by a distracted driver, experienced personal injury attorneys could seek to have the vehicle involved inspected. This is because police reports may not reveal that distraction played a role, but the information stored on automobile data recorders could establish that no evasive action was taken. Attorneys may also use subpoenas to obtain wireless service records to find out if drivers were using their cellphones when they crashed.