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In-vehicle tech can be distracting for older drivers

The audio commands and touchscreens used to control in-vehicle technologies are too distracting for many older drivers in New Jersey and around the country, according to a study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety and the University of Utah. As a result, the authors of the study are calling on car manufacturers to develop designs that are user-friendly for all ages.

For the study, which was released on July 25, researchers asked 128 drivers to interact with in-vehicle systems on six late-model vehicles manufactured by Audi, Cadillac, Lincoln, Mazda, Nissan, and Volvo. The drivers performed a variety of tasks, including texting, plotting navigation, making phone calls, and changing radio stations. The study found that drivers between the ages of 55 and 75 took up to 8.6 seconds longer to complete the tasks than drivers between the ages of 21 and 36. Older drivers also took their eyes off the road an average of eight seconds longer than younger drivers. For reference, AAA reports that drivers double their chances of getting in a wreck by taking their eyes off the road for just two seconds.

The authors of the study say that in-vehicle systems are too complex and urge automakers to create systems that are easier for all drivers to navigate. To reduce the risk of accidents, AAA encourages drivers to avoid interacting with in-vehicle systems while on the road. As an alternative, the organization recommends that drivers practice using voice commands and touch screen functions while the vehicle is parked to become familiar with them. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, over 3,000 people were killed in distracted driving car accidents in the U.S. in 2017.

Victims of distracted driving crashes could be owed compensation for medical bills, lost wages and other damages. A personal injury lawyer could review a victim's case and strive to obtain a fair settlement.

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