Technology crammed into cars worsens driver distraction

Published: Thursday, October 05, 2017 @ 3:50 AM
Updated: Thursday, October 05, 2017 @ 3:49 AM


            In this image from video, Jake Nelson, AAA’s director for traffic safety advocacy and research drives one of the test vehicles used in the study in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017. Infotainment technology automakers are cramming into the dashboard of new vehicles is making drivers take their eyes off the road and hands off the wheel for dangerously long periods of time, a study being released by AAA on Oct. 5 says. (AP Photo/Bill Gorman)
In this image from video, Jake Nelson, AAA’s director for traffic safety advocacy and research drives one of the test vehicles used in the study in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017. Infotainment technology automakers are cramming into the dashboard of new vehicles is making drivers take their eyes off the road and hands off the wheel for dangerously long periods of time, a study being released by AAA on Oct. 5 says. (AP Photo/Bill Gorman)

The infotainment technology that automakers are cramming into the dashboard of new vehicles is making drivers take their eyes off the road and hands off the wheel for dangerously long periods of time, an AAA study says.

The study released Thursday is the latest by University of Utah professor David Strayer, who has been examining the impact of infotainment systems on safety for AAA's Foundation for Traffic Safety since 2013. Past studies also identified problems, but Strayer said the "explosion of technology" has made things worse.

Automakers now include more options to allow drivers to use social media, email and text. The technology is also becoming more complicated to use. Cars used to have a few buttons and knobs. Some vehicles now have as many as 50 buttons on the steering wheel and dashboard that are multi-functional. There are touch screens, voice commands, writing pads, heads-up displays on windshields and mirrors and 3-D computer-generated images.

"It's adding more and more layers of complexity and information at drivers' fingertips without often considering whether it's a good idea to put it at their fingertips," Strayer said. That complexity increases the overall amount of time drivers spend trying to use the systems.

The auto industry says the new systems are better alternatives for drivers than mobile phones and navigation devices that were not designed to be used while driving.

The vehicle-integrated systems "are designed to be used in the driving environment and require driver attention that is comparable to tuning the radio or adjusting climate controls, which have always been considered baseline acceptable behaviors while driving," said Wade Newton, a spokesman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers.

But Jake Nelson, AAA's director for traffic safety advocacy and research, said drivers took their eyes off the road and hands off the wheel while using infotainment systems in each of the 30 cars and light trucks, all 2017 models, that were tested in the study. The drivers used voice commands, touch screens and other interactive technologies to make calls, send texts, tune the radio or program navigation all while driving.

Clearly automakers haven't worked hard enough to make the systems quick and easy to use, Nelson said. Researchers rated 23 of the 30 vehicles "very high" or "high" in terms of the attention they demanded from drivers. Seven were rated "moderate." None required a low amount of attention to use.

Programming a destination into in-vehicle GPS navigation systems was the most distracting activity, taking drivers an average of 40 seconds to complete the task. At 25 mph (40 kph), a car can travel the length of four football fields during the time it takes to enter a destination. Previous research has shown that drivers who remove their eyes from the road for just two seconds double their risk for a crash.

Under pressure from the industry, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in 2012 issued voluntary safety guidelines to automakers for dashboard technology instead of enforceable safety standards. The guidelines recommend that automakers lock out the ability to program navigation systems while a car is moving. However, the ability to program navigation while driving was available in 12 vehicles in the study.

The guidelines also recommend automakers prevent drivers from texting while driving, but three-quarters of the vehicles tested permit drivers to text while the car is moving. Texting was the second-most distracting task performed by test drivers.

Drivers looked away from the road less when using voice commands, but that safety benefit was offset by the increased amount of time drivers spent interacting with the systems.

AAA said drivers should use infotainment technologies "only for legitimate emergencies or urgent, driving-related purposes." It also urged automakers to block the ability to program navigation systems or send texts while driving. Automakers should also design infotainment systems so that they require no more attention to use than listening to the radio or an audiobook, it said.

Nearly 70 percent of U.S. adults say they want the new technologies in their vehicles, but only 24 percent feel that the technology already works perfectly, according to an opinion survey conducted for AAA.

"Drivers want technology that is safe and easy to use," said Marshall Doney, AAA's president and CEO, "but many of the features added to infotainment systems today have resulted in overly complex and sometimes frustrating user experiences for drivers."

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AAA distracted driving study http://exchange.aaa.com/safety/distracted-driving/?zip=20005&devicecd=PC&referer=www.aaa.com#.WdZAJf6GMdV

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Honolulu bans smokers in cars when children are present

Published: Saturday, October 21, 2017 @ 5:55 AM

Smoking while driving is now illegal in Honolulu if there are minors in the vehicle.
Heritage Images/Getty Images
Smoking while driving is now illegal in Honolulu if there are minors in the vehicle.(Heritage Images/Getty Images)

Smoking in a car in Honolulu can bring a hefty fine if there are children in the vehicle, KHON reported.

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In a unanimous vote Wednesday, the Honolulu City Council passed a bill that would make it illegal to smoke in a vehicle if someone under 18 is in inside. The ban also extends to electronic cigarettes, KHON reported.

First offenders would be fined $100, and the fee jumps to $200 if a smoker is cited within a year. A third offense within a year of the second offense would cost the smoker $500, KHON reported. 

The ticket would be issued to the person smoking in the vehicle.

Lila Johnson, program manager for tobacco prevention at the Department of Health, says youths are the most vulnerable to be exposed to secondhand smoke.

“It is probably 10 times as toxic as it is to be sitting inside a smoky bar for a child to be sitting inside a confined unit exposed to secondhand smoke,” Johnson said.

Health officials said drivers are permitted to smoke as long as there are no minor in the vehicle, KHON reported.

Court: Cross shaped monument honoring WWI vets ruled unconstitutional

Published: Saturday, October 21, 2017 @ 5:06 AM

An Eternal Flame monument dedicated to World War I casualties.
Harvey Meston/Getty Images
An Eternal Flame monument dedicated to World War I casualties.(Harvey Meston/Getty Images)

A 40-foot Latin cross-shaped monument in Maryland, built nearly a century ago to honor soldiers who died during World War I, has been ruled unconstitutional by a federal appeals court, CNN reported

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The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday by a 2-1 margin that the 92-year-old structure was in violation of the First Amendment because it is on public land at a busy intersection in Prince George's County and is maintained with government funds. The court's decision does not address whether the monument should be removed or modified.

The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission and the American Legion, who were named as defendants in the case, argued that the cross had a nonreligious purpose “does not have the primary effect of endorsing religion.”

But the appeals court in Richmond, Virginia, sided 2-1 with the American Humanist Association, an organization that advocates for secularism and represented several non-Christian residents of Prince George's County.

The memorial was completed in 1925 using contributions from private donors and the American Legion. It was acquired in 1961 by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission.

If the Supreme Court declines to hear the case, a district court judge would have to decide whether to order the removal of the cross, said David Niose, legal director of the American Humanist Association.

"It's hard to think of remedies other than removal," Niose told CNN, though he said there is the "possibility of modifying the structure."

Georgia man, 93, eats lunch daily next to photo of late wife 

Published: Saturday, October 21, 2017 @ 4:10 AM

Clarence and Carolyn Purvis were married for 64 years until her death in 2013.
Francis Dean/Corbis via Getty Images
Clarence and Carolyn Purvis were married for 64 years until her death in 2013.(Francis Dean/Corbis via Getty Images)

A 93-year-old man from Georgia lost his wife four years ago, but he still has a daily lunch date with her.

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Clarence Purvis takes a picture of his late wife, Carolyn, and sets up her photograph at a table of their favorite eatery, Smith’s Restaurant in Reidsville, WTOC reported.

“She was always with me when we were livin',” Purvis told WTOC. “She's with me now."

Purvis met Carolyn Todd in 1948, when she was 16 years old and he was 24. They were wed the next year and were married for 64 years. She died on Nov. 22, 2013, at age 81, The Purvises owned Purvis Garage in Glennsville, where Carolyn lived her entire life. The couple had three children, six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Clarence and Carolyn dined at Smith’s Restaurant for the last 13 years of her life. 

“Ain't nobody loved one another more than me and my wife loved one another,” Clarence Purvis said. “I wanted what she wanted and she wanted what I wanted."

Although his wife is gone, Clarence Purvis still bonds with her at lunchtime.

“He's a part of this restaurant,” Joyce James, the restaurant’s owner, told WTOC. “I asked my husband, I said, ‘You know, if something happened to me, will you put my picture on the table?’ He said, ‘I don't think so, dear.’ He said, ‘I love you but, that might be a little much.’” 

Purvis visits the Glennville Cemetery “at least four times a day” to visit his wife, WTOC reported.

“I imagine I come 125 times a month,” he told WTOC. “I love her that much. And miss her that much. And think she would with me."

Australia receives ‘unprecedented’ letter from North Korea

Published: Saturday, October 21, 2017 @ 3:11 AM

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop called North Korea's Sept. 28 letter
Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop called North Korea's Sept. 28 letter "unprecedented."(Pool/Getty Images)

In an unusual step, North Korea has sent an open letter addressed to parliaments in several countries, declaring itself a “full-fledged nuclear power” and accusing President Donald Trump of “trying to drive the world into a horrible nuclear disaster,” CNN reported.

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Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop called the letter, dated Sept. 28, “unprecedented” and posted a copy of the cover letter on her verified Facebook page.

Her office confirmed to CNN that the letter, which was published by The Sydney Morning Herald, was genuine.

The letter appears to have been distributed a week after Trump’s address to the United Nations Security Council, after the president said that if the United States was forced to defend itself or its allies, it would have no choice “but to totally destroy North Korea.”

In the letter, North Korea condemned Trump’s statement and reiterated that it was tantamount to a declaration of war, CNN reported.

In the letter, North Korea condemned that statement as tantamount to a declaration of war, something North Korean officials said shortly after the speech. The United States denied that Trump had declared war on North Korea, which is also known as the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

“If Trump thinks that he would bring the DPRK (Democratic People's Republic of Korea), a nuclear power, to its knees through nuclear war threat, it will be a big miscalculation and an expression of ignorance,” the letter said, according to CNN.

"I see (the letter) it as evidence that the collective strategy of imposing maximum diplomatic and economic pressure through sanctions on North Korea is working," Bishop said.

Posted by Julie Bishop MP on Thursday, October 19, 2017