If you own or have recently been in a late model vehicle, you may have noticed that the dashboard console is considerably more advanced than you’ve seen in the past. These vehicle “infotainment systems” aim to make for a better driving experience, with numerous features and touch-screen controls, but are these high-tech dashboards taking our eyes off the road?

According to a recent study by AAA, the answer is yes. Evidence suggests that drivers who use these systems are distracted for an average of 40 seconds. For context, in that period of time, if you were traveling at just 25 miles an hour, you could cover the length of four football fields. It’s an alarming statistic that offers a view into a growing area of motor vehicle accident risk.

High visual demand

Research has shown that tasks like navigation, texting and setting audio and climate controls can place a high visual demand on the driver. Advanced touch-screen and voice-controlled systems, according to some researchers, can lead drivers to think about things other than driving. These distractions, it’s claimed, can divert drivers’ attention from the road for dangerous lengths of time.

In AAA’s recent review of 30 different vehicle infotainment systems, they concluded that 23 placed a high or very high demand on drivers. It’s a noteworthy ratio when paired with the organization’s other claim that removing your eyes from the road for just two seconds can double your risk of a crash.

For their part, automakers disagree with AAA’s findings. The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers-a prominent automobile industry advocacy group-has long warned of the risks of texting and driving but insists that infotainment consoles pose little threat.

The argument from the Alliance is that vehicle-integrated systems discourage drivers from using portable devices. They equate the use of high-tech consoles to turning a radio dial or adjusting the air conditioning-a harmless activity that happens when safely operating a vehicle.

While dashboard infotainment systems can make for a more comfortable drive, it’s essential to keep your eyes on the road. If you’re operating a motor vehicle, the onus is on you to be vigilant of your surroundings at all times. It will be interesting to see how these advanced dashboard systems evolve with safety standards over time.