New in-vehicle technology could “cause more harm for older drivers” rather than helping them, according to new research.

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety partnered with researchers from the University of Utah to test visual and cognitive demands of infotainment systems in six 2018 vehicles and found older drivers (ages 55-75) removed their eyes and attention from the road for more than eight seconds longer than younger drivers (ages 21-36) when performing simple tasks like programming navigation or tuning the radio.

“Voice-command functions found in new in-vehicle technology are intended to help drivers by keeping their eyes and attention on the road,” said Dr David Yang, Executive Director of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. “Unfortunately, the complexity and poor design of some of these systems could cause more harm for older drivers, in particular, instead of helping them.”

Drivers in two age groups (21-36) and (55-75) were asked to make a call, send a text message, tune the radio, or program navigation using voice commands, touch screens and other interactive technologies while driving. Older drivers took longer (4.7-8.6 seconds) to complete tasks, experienced slower response times, and increased visual distractions.

AAA recommends that all drivers:

  • Avoid interacting with in-vehicle infotainment technology while driving except for legitimate emergencies.
  • Practice using the voice command and touch screen functions when not driving to build comfort in case emergency use is required.
  • Avoid vehicles that require use of a center console controller when using the infotainment system. These kinds of systems are especially distracting, and potentially dangerous.

The latest report is the seventh phase of distraction research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.