In-car Electronics Create Distractions and Impair Driving

One of the leading causes of motor vehicle accidents for Massachusetts drivers may be the device in the driver’s pocket.  A recent Harvard University study concluded that 2,600 wrongful deaths and 570,000 personal injuries are caused each year by cell phone distractions. According to a Virginia Tech study, drivers using cell phones are more impaired than a legally drunk driver.  Despite the known dangers of in-car electronics, car makers are taking driver distractions one step further with in-car “infotainment” systems.

As recently unveiled at the 2010 Consumer Electronics Show, car makers and internet companies are teaming up to equip cars with interactive screens on the dashboard that display maps, videos, and internet sites.  Safety advocates are concerned about the risk of car accidents and pedestrian accidents caused by distracted drivers watching the screen instead of the road.  A recent New York Times article on these new systems discusses how the danger of crashing dramatically increases when a motorist looks at a screen, even a GPS screen.

Car makers assure that safety mechanisms will be in place to minimize the risk of driver distractions, such as voice controls or blocking internet use when the car is in motion.  However, some safety advocates are questioning whether car manufacturers are placing profit concerns above safety. It only takes two seconds for the likelihood of a crash to increase exponentially.