There are exciting features being added to new automobiles with each passing year. Dashboard displays now resemble home entertainment systems, expanding beyond radio and internal climate controls. Auto-infotainment installations of today allow the same conveniences of a tablet and smartphone, even permitting video game play. But this has become a detriment to road safety in many ways. Some drivers abuse this technology, as with one politician who attended a Zoom meeting while driving, on the same day a bill to ban distracted driving was introduced. Of course, not all examples of distraction are so extreme, as some come from passengers using the same technology to bide time during commutes.
Despite government calls to better regulate dashboard technology, automakers will continue to add digital bells and whistles to promote sales. As a result, consumer safety campaigns are being thrust to the forefront. At press, the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) will be launching a public awareness program to better inform drivers of the risks of distracted driving with a focus on auto-infotainment. In the meantime, we wanted to act now to provide BC drivers with practical yet highly effective tips to keeping auto-infotainment from causing further harm on the road.
4 Tips to Keeping Your Vehicle’s Dashboard Tech and Auto-Infotainment Features from Causing Driver Distraction
Adjust All Settings Before Starting the Engine
The dashboard tech features that actually help improve the driving experience can also cause distraction when you attempt to adjust settings while operating the vehicle. Even voice activated features can cause distraction, as drivers tend to look at the dash when issuing a voice command. Old habits die hard.
Before you pull out of your garage or parking spot be sure to adjust all settings. New technology allows for this before the engine is started. Presets are available for navigation systems, internal climate, music, autopilot, and fuel/energy efficiency programing. If you’re unfamiliar with these presets, reference the online driver’s manual from the safety of your sofa the night before. If you absolutely need to adjust any settings while en route to your destination, pull over at the next convenient spot and make the adjustments there. The only thing that you should do while driving, is drive.
Don’t Allow Front Passengers to Use Entertainment Features
Tesla was recently criticized by automobile safety regulators for installing a video game feature in the front dash for passengers. In response to this criticism, Tesla launched a software update at the end of December (2021) to disable the feature while driving. This sequence of events speaks to the concern about how auto-infotainment can be problematic for drivers, even if used by passengers. Web browsing, movies, video streaming, and gaming should be relegated solely to those in the back via screen installations that are located behind the front seats. This may keep some from calling “shotgun” from here on in, but it’s ultimately for everyone’s safety and best interests.
Keep the Volume OFF on Backseat Entertainment
Loud noise coming from backseat entertainment features can cause you just as much distraction as flashy displays in the front. Audibles from sudden explosions during a movie or video game can take your focus off the road for a split-second, which is all that is required to result in a motor vehicle accident. Backseat infotainment systems all have plug-in or Bluetooth tech that allows users to enjoy them with headphones on. Make sure backseat passengers put them on and enable them before initiating program or game play.
Establish Firm Rules for Backseat Entertainment
If you have kids (or kids at heart) who regularly sit in the backseat, establish that the use of entertainment features (video game play, etc.) is a privilege, not a right. Let it be known that if they cause a distraction while using these features, that auto-infotainment will be off limits. This must be one of those “one strike and you’re out” rules, because it applies to their safety and others who share the road.