New study: This is a big distraction for drivers over 55


If you’re one of those drivers who has a hard time working your radio and keeping your eyes on the road at the same time, a recent study says you’re not alone.

New in-vehicle technology — also known as an “infotainment” system — is increasingly making it difficult for older drivers to concentrate behind the wheel, according to AAA.

AAA: Infotainment systems are distracting older drivers

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that 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).”

The distractions were centered on simple tasks you may take for granted, like setting up the navigation system or using the radio.

Completion Time by Task Type
Audio Entertainment Calling and Dialing Text Messaging Navigation Entry
Younger (21-36 yrs) 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

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety and University of Utah researchers looked into how drivers respond to commands from infotainment systems in six 2018 vehicles.

Participants performed several functions while driving, including using touch screens and interactive technologies to call and send a text to someone, as well as adjust the radio and navigation tool.

The study found that all drivers who use infotainment systems are distracted, but that is especially the case for older drivers.

In fact, the senior drivers in the study “took longer (4.7-8.6 seconds) to complete tasks, experienced slower response times, and increased visual distractions.”

The research concludes that design improvements may be the key to safer technology in cars.

“This is a design problem, not an age problem,” said Jake Nelson, AAA director of traffic safety advocacy and research. “Designing systems to meet the safety and comfort needs of aging drivers would benefit all of us today, and for years to come.”

Even if your current vehicle doesn’t have an infotainment system, you may come across the new technology in a rental car. To stay safe, AAA recommends the following steps:

  • Limit use of infotainment systems while driving as much as possible.
  • Learn how to use your voice command systems and touch-screen technology before you drive the vehicle.
  • Avoid using center console controllers. These systems are even more distracting, making them potentially dangerous.

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