Distracted Driving: Plugging In, Zoning Out

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Safety experts want auto companies to change infotainment systems so the most distracting features are locked out when the vehicle is in motion. However, these features can distract the driver, putting their lives at risk.

The auto industry says the new systems are better alternatives for drivers than mobile phones and navigation devices that were not created to be used while driving. The study also found that drivers lose their focus up to 27 seconds after sending emails or texts.

Operating an infotainment system while driving is legal in the United Kingdom, however last night the RAC warned drivers against using technology while on the move.

Automakers are cramming "infotainment technology" into new cars and drivers are now taking their eyes off the road and hands off the wheel for dangerously long periods of time.

In particular they point out that touch screen require "high levels of visual and mental demand".

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There were 11 vehicles rated "high" through the testing, including: Cadillac XT5 Luxury, Chevrolet Traverse LT, Dodge Ram 1500, Ford Fusion Titanium, Hyundai Sonata Base, Infiniti Q50 Premium, Jeep Compass Sport, Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited, Kia Sorento LX, Nissan Maxima SV and Toyota Rav 4 XLE.

The report on AAA's study was released by their Center for Driving Safety and Technology. However, manufacturers still enable the navigation centers and infotainment options when the vehicle is on the move.

AAA says that the infotainment systems should only be used for emergencies and driving related purposes. None of the systems generated "low" distraction, according to the researchers.

Texting while driving is a well-known distraction for drivers, exponentially increasing the likelihood of a crash. Deaths involving distracted driving jumped 8.8% to 3,477 in 2015, the latest year in which statistics were available, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Automakers are now not sure which way they should go, Autotrader executive analyst Michelle Krebs tells LATimes.

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