New AAA Foundation Research Suggests Safer Technology for Older Drivers Could Protect Everyone
BELLEVUE, Wash. — New in-vehicle infotainment systems, meant to increase comfort and extend mobility for older drivers, are instead creating potentially deadly distractions. New research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety revealed that on average, older drivers (ages 55-75) removed their eyes and attention from the road for more than eight seconds longer than younger drivers (ages 21-36) when programming navigation or tuning the radio using in-vehicle infotainment technology. Taking your eyes off the road for just two seconds doubles a driver’s risk of a crash.
“Voice-command functions found in new in-vehicle technology are intended to help drivers by keeping their eyes and attention on the road,” said Dr. David Yang, Executive Director of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. “Unfortunately, the complexity and poor design of some of these systems could cause more harm for drivers, more so for older drivers, instead of helping them.”
The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety partnered with researchers from the University of Utah to test the visual and cognitive demand created by the infotainment systems in six 2018 vehicles. Study participants in two age groups (21-36 years and 55-75 years) were required to use voice commands, touch screens and other interactive technologies to make a call, send a text message, tune the radio or program navigation, all while driving.
Researchers found that while the technology created potentially unsafe distractions for all drivers, the safety risk is more pronounced for older adults. The older adults group took 4.7-8.6 seconds longer to complete tasks, experienced slower response times, and increased visual distractions.
Completion Time by Task Type
|Audio Entertainment||Calling and Dialing||Text Messaging||Navigation Entry|
|Younger (21-36yrs)||18.0 sec||17.7 sec||27.7 sec||31.4 sec|
|Older (55-75 yrs)||25.4 sec||22.4 sec||33.8 sec||40.0 sec|
By 2030, more than one in five drivers on the road will be over the age of 65. With seniors becoming the fastest growing demographic in the U.S., specific design changes to in-vehicle infotainment systems, like improving voice-command technology, simplifying software menus, removing complex center console controls, and positioning system controls to allow drivers to keep their eyes on the road, would better meet the needs of older adults and make the systems safer for all drivers.
“This is a design problem, not an age problem,” said AAA Washington’s Traffic Safety Program Manager, Kelly Just. “Designing systems to meet the safety and comfort needs of aging drivers would benefit all of us today, and for years to come.”
Whether you purchase a new vehicle, or rent one while traveling, AAA recommends that all drivers, especially older drivers, keep the following tips in mind:
- Avoid interacting with in-vehicle infotainment technology while driving except for legitimate emergencies.
- Practice using the voice-command and touch-screen functions when not driving to build comfort in case emergency use is required.
- Avoid vehicles that require use of a center console controller when using the infotainment system. These kinds of systems are especially distracting and potentially dangerous.
A total of 128 drivers ages 21-36 and 55-75 participated in the study of six 2018 model-year vehicles. The latest report is the seventh phase of distraction research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. Visit AAA.com/distraction to learn more.