Nowadays not only mobile phones but cars are also getting smarter with upgraded technologies. However, it seems that not everyone could manage or cope up with these upgraded technologies. Smartphones are often involved for distracted driving, but seniors are particularly struggling with the technology as it is built into the dashboards of most cars. Thus distraction increases the risk of accidents. According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, high-tech cars are distracting and too confusing for older drivers. The University of Utah researchers conducted an experiment for AAA by separating the drivers into two age groups i.e., 21 to 36 and 55 to 75. A 2018 model car was driven by all the participants. The cars were equipped with new and smart features such as navigation screens, voice activation controls, and tasked to send a text, program the music, and place a call. Both younger and older drivers found that the high-tech features were distracting and time-consuming. The 55 to 75 age group drivers experienced more cognitive and visual demand than the other age group. In fact, 71-year-old Paul Brown – one of the participants, described his experience as a “comedy of errors” and said that due to distractions he was driving dangerously.
The AAA has a guide for senior drivers to find the right high-tech cars that are comfortable and safe. The factors taken into consideration are leg strength looking for a fit, range of motion, cognitive ability, and motor skills. The infotainment systems of a vehicle help to navigate an unknown address or to find a favorite song easily. The study from AAA finds that the screens can be too distracting, especially for senior drivers. According to William Horrey of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety said that shifting the attention of driver from the driving task to in-vehicle task due to taking long glances inside the cabin is quite risky.
According to a researcher, making cars user-friendly for senior drivers ultimately make cars safer for everyone. The ubiquitous touchscreens aren’t the only problem, removing eyes from the road for a second or two can double the risk of an accident. Even vehicle voice commands which are designed for the driver to keep his eyes on the road. This can cause frustration and can lead to distraction even if the commands aren’t recognized. If the technology gets confusing and too distracting, the safety experts recommend to pull over to the side of the road.