Dashboards like Smartphones Raise Safety Concerns

Vehicle Safety Technology Attorney - The Cooper Firm

Dashboards like Smartphones Raise Safety Concerns

Dashboards are becoming increasingly popular on new vehicles, but safety advocates worry that they could increase risk of a car accident.

Automakers don’t seem to be too worried, and are only answering the overwhelming demand from consumers to make dashboards more like smartphones. Most automakers say that the dashboards will actually improve driving safety. Due to the voice controls and large touch screens, automakers think drivers will be less distracted and less tempted to play with their phone while driving.

Unfortunately, dashboards are more complex than they use to be, making them more difficult to work with. Just as you would look at your phone to complete a task, you are instead looking at the dash on your vehicle. In some cases, safety advocates and distracted driving studies think you could actually look at the dashboard longer than you typically would at your cell phone. David Strayer, a professor of cognition and neural science at the University of Utah who has also written several studies on distracted driving, showed in his research that reading a text message takes at least four seconds. And even four seconds is far longer that what Strayer considers safe.  Playing on your dashboard can take much longer than four seconds.

The newer the vehicle, the more features the dashboard will hold. Some dashboards will even show you your mentions on Twitter, although not allowing you to see your full Twitter stream. Text messages will appear across the dashboard and can be read aloud while you are driving. These are all things drivers shouldn’t be doing or looking at while driving, regardless of whether it’s a cell phone or dashboard.

There are currently no standards for dashboards in vehicles. Some safety agencies, including the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, have issued driver-distraction guidelines for dashboard displays, but they are only voluntary. Due to the lack of standards, there is a possibility that the more complex dashboards get, the more accidents there will be as a result. Insurers have not taken a stand on dashboards yet, and have not changed policy rates if a vehicle has an interactive dashboard or not.

It would be wise for NHTSA to educate itself on the new technologies and go ahead and create actual regulations for automakers instead of filling in later when these technologies could cause serious harm to consumers.

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