In Transit: Dashboard systems pose dangerous risk, AAA warns

  • AAA warns that spending too much time engaged with dashboard infotainment systems can be hazardous.

    AAA warns that spending too much time engaged with dashboard infotainment systems can be hazardous. Courtesy of AAA

Updated 10/16/2017 8:16 AM

Love staying connected while driving? Enjoy chatting with Siri, sampling songs on Pandora and punching in addresses for your navigation system using easy, safe dashboard technology?

Well stop it, AAA warns in a new study that finds many vehicle infotainment systems create dangerous situations for motorists.


"Just because they're in your car doesn't mean they're safe to use while driving down the roadway," AAA spokeswoman Beth Mosher cautioned.

AAA and University of Utah researchers tested infotainment centers in thirty 2017 vehicles to measure the toll on drivers' brains and eyes. They found 77 percent required high or very high levels of demand.

Tasks that took drivers' eyes off the road or absorbed their attention included using touch screens, issuing voice commands and tuning the radio.

The most risky behavior involved typing in directions for navigation systems that took an average of 40 seconds to complete; AAA notes a car going 25 mph can travel the length of four football fields in that time period.

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Even if you're using voice-to-text technology to tweet, post to Facebook or send a text, it's not safe because "your brain is engaged in a task that is not driving," Mosher explained.

When dashboard technology is badly designed, simple tasks become complicated and require more effort from drivers, said AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety Executive Director David Yang.

That includes robotic assistants such as Apple's Siri, whose failure to understand basic questions can cause fits of rage in nondrivers, let alone people behind the wheel.

AAA conducted the study to prod auto manufacturers to improve infotainment systems by following federal guidelines that recommend features such as texting, social media and navigation be locked out while cars are moving.


So what's a driver with a tempting dashboard display to do?

"Take care of things before you leave the parking lot," Mosher advised. That means punching in locations for a navigation app to search before shifting into drive, for example.

Meanwhile, it turns out that while 70 percent of Americans want souped-up dashboards, only 24 percent think the technology works perfectly. And how many people use infotainment systems while driving? One in three, AAA reports.

We reached out to several automakers to comment. Toyota spokesman Curt McAllister said "we will continue to make driver safety a top priority as we work to meet evolving consumer demands for in-vehicle technologies."

Got an opinion on dashboard technology? Drop me an email at

You should know

What vehicles' infotainment systems demanded the most attention from drivers? The finalists are: Audi Q7 QPP, Chrysler 300 C, Dodge Durango GT, Ford Mustang GT, GMC Yukon SLT, Honda Civic Touring, Honda Ridgeline RTL-E, Mazda3 Touring, Nissan Armada SV, Subaru Crosstrek Premium, Tesla Model S and Volvo XC60 T5 Inscription.

Your voice

Jan DiFrancesca of Huntley isn't happy with the Illinois tollway charging double for I-PASS customers who drive through tolls without a transponder in 2018.

"I've had an I-PASS for many years now, but I don't like the fact that they are basically forcing the purchase of one," DiFrancesca said. "I believe the penalty for not having one is extreme, as having to wait in line is penalty enough. But my biggest issue is with these new I-PASS-ONLY exit/entrance ramps at Route 47 and the I-90 interchange in Huntley."

For out-of-state visitors who use the interchange there's no option to pay a cash fee, she added. "The onus is on them to go home, look up in the computer where they passed a toll and pay it online (or possibly they allow you to send in a check). Absurd!"

Gridlock alert

Sorry Libertyville. Lake County and the Canadian National Railway will close Winchester Road at the CN tracks west of Route 45 starting Oct. 25 through Halloween for repairs to improve "ride quality."

One more thing

Are the restrooms clean? Do the vending machines work? Is the soap soapy? IDOT wants to know your opinion on its 30 rest areas and 11 welcome centers across the state's highways. To take part in an online survey go to by Oct. 29.

Deer in the headlights

It's that time of year again -- as in when love-struck deers and vehicles connect. About 41 percent of deer crashes in Illinois occur in October, November and December -- mating season -- state officials report. That's out of 14,759 crashes in 2016. November is the worst month for collisions and the most unsafe times are at dawn and dusk. To stay safe, scan both sides of the road when near wooded areas, slow down if you see deer, and if a crash seems inevitable try to "glance the vehicle off the deer" and avoid swerving into other lanes, experts advise.

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