The AutoSlash team dislikes distracted driving. A lot. Just this morning, I had to refrain from hitting the horn because a police officer in front of me was looking at a technology device while sitting at a green light on a 6-lane divided highway ... There are two forms of impairments -- cognitive and visual -- that occur when using technology in a vehicle. In fact, distracted driving has come up in the AutoSlash blog before. We mocked US News and World Report for making the assertion that one of the reasons manual transmissions can't exist was because of the increasing amount of technology in vehicles. Yet technology is becoming more prevalent in vehicles, and those onboard systems are distracting for drivers. And for drivers who are entirely new to the model (such as in rental cars), we can imagine that the distraction is exacerbated. How long do these systems take attention off the road? As much as 40 seconds, per the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. In a moving automobile, that's a very long time!
Obviously, the AutoSlash team isn't a bunch of technophobes. We wouldn't be able to provide this great service for our fellow travelers without technology! We frequently use various onboard technologies, such as in our review of the SilverCar Audi A4s and to figure out how to close the sunroof on a Mercedes Benz GLC. Yet we don't configure a vehicle's WiFi hotspot, review the vehicle's owner guide, or even request directions while driving! Those are great tools provided in many modern cars that we're happiest using while not moving!
Distracted driving accounts for almost 400,000 injuries in the United States each year. As someone who's been rear-ended by an individual editing a magazine and separately struck by a truck (as a pedestrian) while on a sidewalk, I'm a strong advocate of attentive driving! And we do like how many businesses have intentionally taken actions to help alleviate the dangers created by distracted driving.
The Waze app, one of the favorites of the AutoSlash team, won't allow a user to request directions in a moving car (unless the user affirms that the individual is a passenger). Hertz' NeverLost system similarly won't allow renters to type in directions while moving. Yet according to the studies commissioned by AAA, 12 of the 30 vehicles with "infotainment systems" they studied allowed drivers to request directions while the car was moving, and the average amount of time spent by distracted drivers requesting directions was 40 seconds while driving 25 mph! That's well above the "societally-acceptable" 12 seconds (a standard set by the amount of time needed to tune a radio!) promoted by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), and even at just 25 mph comes out to the length of approximately five football fields (on average).
AAA's study was among drivers who were familiarized with the electronic systems, had taken a defensive driving course, and had Motor Vehicle Records checked to ensure no prior incidents. We know you're a great driver but research studies with other great drivers show that interacting with onboard technology while moving can impose lengthy cognitive and visual distractions from the road. While manufacturers are going to continue adding technological features to cars, we encourage drivers -- especially in unfamiliar rentals -- to use those tools when stopped on sparingly while en route.