New study from AAA reveals this type of device distracts us the most while driving

If you have a newer car, you’ve likely played around with some of its high-tech features. With everything from built-in navigation to texting and checking social media, it’s pretty hard to resist. And, of course, not resisting all the gadgets can cause some serious problems. About 3,477 people died as a result of distracted driving in 2015, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s most recent data.

According to a new report by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, these high-tech infotainment systems are distracting drivers for dangerously long periods of time. However, many of us don’t realize exactly how long our eyes are off the road.

navigation system photo
Flickr | IQRemix

Getty Images | Andre VieiraTo study this new driving trend, the University of Utah conducted research while drivers were visually and mentally distracted with tasks like entering directions in their GPS or sending a text message.

They monitored 120 drivers, ages 21-36, while they drove in 30 different cars on a two-mile stretch of road. The road had a posted speed limit of 25 mph and generally low traffic.

It’s no surprise that calling/dialing, sending a text message, tuning the radio  and programming navigation are all ways that technology distracts us while driving. The study aimed to determine which task was the most demanding (ie. time-consuming) to complete while driving.

The study also looked at the level of demand associated with completing these tasks using voice commands, touchscreens or other interactive technologies like a rotary wheel or draw pad.

What they found may surprise you.

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Using Navigation Is The Riskiest For Drivers

While it would seem like texting would be, overall, the most demanding of our attention, it is actually entering a destination into the navigation system.

This task took an average of 40 seconds for the driver to complete. Texting caused 30 seconds of distraction for a driver. Which actions took the least amount of time? The study showed changing the radio station and making a voice call caused the least amount of distraction for drivers.

But what makes navigation such a time-consuming practice? It takes longer for people to enter an address into the navigation system than it does to text a friend. And, the longer it takes to use the navigation system, the longer the driver’s eyes stay off the road.

When it comes to controlling elements in the car, the report found that using the “center stack” (e.g., touch screen, knobs/button built into the dashboard) took the least amount of time for a driver to use as compared to voice commands and “center console” (e.g., writing pads and dial).

While voice commands allow drivers to have less visual distraction, those benefits are “offset by longer interaction times.”

distracted driving photo
Getty Images | Spencer Platt

AAA Recommendations To Prevent Distracted Driving

The researchers said most infotainment systems tested could be made safer by following federal recommendations. For example: locking out text, social media and navigation inputs while the car is in motion.

“(Automakers should) use the results of this study to isolate the most significant sources of demand on drivers, and focus their efforts to remedy those design challenges first (e.g., simply blocking driver access to texting and navigation destination entry while driving would be a huge step forward),” the report reads.

In the case of our phones, mobile phone-makers are already moving in this direction. The latest iPhone operating system, iOS 11, contains a “safe driving mode” that automatically detects when you are driving and offers you the opportunity to mute notifications as long as you are in motion.

driving photo
Getty Images | David McNew

For maximum safety, AAA says you should always program your navigation system before starting your drive. And just because texting is there, doesn’t mean you should use it. Do not do any tasks while driving that require more attention than listening to the radio. And if something will take your eyes off the road, then make sure your car is not moving when performing that task.

car gps photo
Getty Images | Peter Macdiarmid