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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Touchscreen devices in cars linked to higher accident risks

Touchscreen devices in cars linked to higher accident risks

CANBERRA: Other devices are being singled out alongside the cellphone as being linked to distracted driving accidents.
This time, they are portable touchscreen-based devices in cars, whether they be mp3 players, smartphones, GPS or PDAs.

Above: My dad's MYVI 1.5 SE with "High risk" touch screen Multimedia navigation player.

A research team from the Monash University Accident Research Centre of Australia, led by author Kristie Young, analysed the impact of using touchscreen devices on driving skills.
Young and her team assessed the ability of 37 people to stay in their lane and stay a safe distance behind another vehicle while searching for songs in a list of tunes on an iPod Touch device by using computer driving simulations.
"The devices often have really small text or their menu structures are quite complex, and drivers have to spend a lot of time to find a particular item," said Young.

"When drivers' eyes are off the road, they miss the visual cues from the road environment to make micro-corrections to their steering to stay on the correct path and also to maintain a safe distance from the lead vehicle," China's Xinhua news agency quoted her as saying in a statement.
The main problem with portable devices being brought into cars is that they are not designed primarily for use by drivers, said Young, adding that these devices use scrolling mechanisms and finger flicks to locate songs on a touchscreen.
Without any tactile feedback, drivers need to look at the device to keep track of where they are up to in the task, and the short glance back to the roadway might not be sufficient.

"The heading and following errors build up and become more increased over time because they aren't making those adjustments that they need to stay on the correct path."
The researchers found that the drivers not only have their eyes off the road for a significantly much more time, they were also more likely to veer off the center of their lane, and misjudge the distance to the car in front.

To compensate for the distraction, drivers tended to slow down and take more frequent glances at the device.
However, Young pointed out that such action is not a safe strategy.
According to the research, over 40 percent of drivers own a portable music player will use it while driving with half of them being young drivers.
Young said previous experience showed that younger drivers are more likely to engage in distracting activities.
The impact of that distracting activity is likely to be greater on driver performance because they lack the level of driver experience and skill to handle those increased risks.
It is reported that better integration of touchscreen devices into car systems and deploying system lock outs, where only a limited number of functions are allowed while the car is moving could help in reducing the risk.
Young suggested that "enter your destination details [on your GPS] before driving off, load up playlists before driving would help a lot."
The finding was published in the journal Applied Ergonomics.


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