Are In-Vehicle Infotainment Systems Contributing to Distracted Driving?

Hands up if you connect your mobile phone to your vehicle’s touchscreen infotainment system when you get into your car. It’s become fairly common to do so. Driving any vehicle takes concentration and focus, after all. Which is why many newer vehicles have technology that allows drivers to sync with an iPhone or Android mobile phone, and provide motorists with a safer, hands-free way to use their mobile devices while driving.

But alarmingly, a U.K. road safety study finds in-vehicle infotainment systems that use Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are negatively impacting driving performance. Reaction times of drivers tested using these technologies, the report states, was significantly slower than someone who had used cannabis and five times worse than someone driving at the legal limit of alcohol consumption.

According to that report, a driver’s reaction times using Apple CarPlay by voice slows by 36% and 57% when interacting with a touchscreen. It also states the reaction time of a driver who uses cannabis slows by 21%, and 12% if they have up to the legal limit of alcohol in their bloodstream.

Among its key findings, participants in the study were underestimating the time they thought they spent looking away from the road when engaging with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay via touch control.

The report raises many questions about in-vehicle infotainment systems and how we interact with them. While the impacts of a distracted driving conviction on your auto insurance premium are significant, the bigger issue as it pertains to the use of car infotainment systems is their potential effects on road safety.

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What Is Distracted Driving?

Distracted driving is when a driver uses a mobile phone while behind the wheel to send or respond to a text or email, make a phone call or adjust the device’s GPS app. Whether your vehicle is in motion or stopped at a red light, it is illegal to use a mobile device when you are driving.

Although distracted driving can also be a motorist playing with the infotainment system in their vehicle, or eating instead of fully concentrating on driving, you are more likely to be charged with careless or dangerous driving in those instances.

According to the Ontario Government, someone is injured in a distracted-driving collision every half hour, and a driver using a phone while behind the wheel is four times more likely to crash than a driver who focuses on the road. Further, the Insurance Bureau of Canada says a distracted driver misses up to 50% of what is happening around them while on the road, and that you are 23 times more likely to get into a car accident if you text while driving.

How a Distracted Driving Conviction Affects Your Auto Insurance Premium

If you are convicted of distracted driving, the penalties are severe and far-reaching. Expensive fines, demerit points, and a licence suspension is the tip of the iceberg.

Distracted driving laws and penalties for convictions range by province or territory. For example, in Ontario, a first offence includes fines from $615 to $1,000, three demerit points, and a three-day licence suspension. In Alberta, it’s a $287 fine and three demerit points for a first infraction. The penalties increase significantly for repeat offenders.

It’s a serious problem too. One out of every four fatal collisions in Canada involves a distracted driver, says the Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF). Incredibly, a 2015 TIRF report states car crashes caused by distracted driving equalled or surpassed impaired driving-related crashes in the provinces of Ontario, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Manitoba.

How to Stay Focused and Safe While Driving

The U.K. study shines a light on how new in-car technology might lead to distraction and pose a risk to road safety. How automakers and technology providers will address these issues remains to be seen. In the meantime, there are a few ways you can reduce the distractions inside your car that can hinder driving performance while behind the wheel:

  • Refrain from using your vehicle’s dashboard infotainment system while driving; set the system up as you require before beginning to drive
  • Set your mobile phone to "airplane mode" so you are not disturbed by it while driving and put it away
  • If you are a passenger in a vehicle and the driver interacts or attempts to interact with a mobile device or the dashboard touchscreen, ask them to stop and concentrate on driving
  • If you have to respond to an email, text, or phone call, pull over to a safe spot, park, and only then use your phone

In a world of distracted, inattentive, or dangerous drivers, we should all aim to put road safety first and commit to being better drivers. Doing so is your best defence against getting into a collision or crash and keeping your premium affordable. It’s important to note a distracted driving conviction will ratchet up your auto insurance premium by 15% to 25%, and that conviction remains on your driving record for three years.

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