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Interactive Dashboards, the Newest Source of Distracted Driving


Safety experts are raising concerns about the latest evolving distraction in cars: the interactive dashboard. You already know that fiddling with your smartphone can lead to a serious accident. These evolving displays, however, can be just as distracting.

The interactive screens are highly popular. Auto manufacturers say these dashboards will make driving safer because the voice controls and large touch screens will keep drivers from fumbling for their phones.  

David Strayer, a professor of cognition and neural science at the University of Utah who has authored a number of studies on distracted driving, disagrees. He says that interactive dashboards "are enabling activities that take your eyes off the road for longer than most safety advocates would say is safe."

His research shows that reading the average text message, which can be done on many new interactive car screens, takes about four seconds, enough time to distract a driver from what's happening on the road.

If you have a vehicle with an interactive screen, use it sparingly and avoid interaction while the car is on the move.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends the following to reduce distraction in cars with interactive dashboards:

  • Don't use functions that include photographs or moving images unrelated to driving.

  • Any task should require less than six taps in order to be completed.

  • Drivers should be able to complete tasks in a series of 1.5- or 2-second glances, for a total of no more than 12 seconds.

Frances Zettl