Meg Thomson
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Study from AAA and the University of Utah Shows In-Vehicle Technology is Dangerously Distracting

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A long-awaited suspicion has been confirmed. Thanks to a study organized by the American Automobile Association (AAA)’s Foundation for Traffic Safety and the University of Utah, we can officially say that in-vehicle tech features in newer cars are widely contributing to the distracted-driving epidemic.

Of course, while this seems obvious to some, many drivers don’t think twice about using their in-vehicle features on the go. They assume that if it comes standard on their vehicle, it must be safe to use. Right?


A touchscreen infotainment system is a standard in nearly all new vehicles these days. Those touchscreens control nearly everything in the vehicle – from the radio station and volume to the thermostat, navigation, and even the speedometer and gas gauges. With the increase of technology in our vehicles, these screens are taking over, making it nearly impossible to drive your car without using them. Progressive manufacturers like Tesla are even crafting their vehicles to be entirely operated by touchscreens and built-in digital devices.

Tesla Model S

The Tesla Model S received a poor rating of “Very High Demand” in the study for its 75 Infotainment System

So what’s the difference between using a built-in touchscreen that comes with your vehicle than simply texting and driving? Well, according to AAA and the University of Utah, not much.

The study was conducted with 30 vehicles, testing the drivers and their attention levels when using the built-in tech. Drivers were instructed to utilize different features in the vehicle throughout the drive. These features included, but were not limited to, voice command, assisted text messaging, phone calls, radio tuning, and the vehicle’s navigation system.

Every single vehicle failed the test.

Not a single vehicle from the study produced a low level of demand for the driver’s attention. Seven vehicles tested produced modern demand, while 23 generated high or very high demand. In fact, the study found drivers distracted, with their eyes completely off the road, for up to 40 seconds at one time.

In case you’re wondering, here is a comprehensive list of the vehicles tested and their scores:

Vehicle (Make and Model) Level of Demand for Driver’s Attention
Audi Q7 QPP Very High Demand
Cadillac XT5 High Demand
Chevrolet Equinox LT Moderate Demand
Chevrolet Traverse LT High Demand
Dodge Durango GT Very High Demand
Dodge Ram 1500 High Demand
Ford F250 XLT Moderate Demand
Ford Fusion Titanium High Demand
Ford Mustang GT Very High Demand
GMC Yukon SLT Very High Demand
Honda Civic Touring Very High Demand
Honda Ridgeline RTL-E Very High Demand
Hyundai Santa Fe Sport Moderate Demand
Hyundai Sonata Base High Demand
Infiniti Q50 Premium High Demand
Jeep Compass Sport High Demand
Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited High Demand
Kia Sorento LX High Demand
Lincoln MKC Premiere Moderate Demand
Mazda3 Touring Very High Demand
Nissan Armada SV Very High Demand
Subaru Crosstrek Premium Very High Demand
Tesla Model S Very High Demand
Toyota Camry SE Moderate Demand
Toyota Corolla SE Moderate Demand
Toyota RAV4 XLE High Demand
Toyota Sienna XLE Moderate Demand
Volvo XC60 T5 Inscription Very High Demand

You can see the full report for each vehicle here.

Drivers across the United States have the overwhelming belief that built-in technology features are exclusively there to help you drive safely. Whether that’s voice command to stop you from texting and driving or navigation screens to prevent you from getting lost (or driving into a lake – but hopefully you learned from Michael Scott’s mistakes). However, this study proves that is not the case – especially if you don’t know how to use the features. These features can be just as distracting as pulling out your phone and sending a text (which we don’t recommend, either).

The safest option is to pull over or wait until your vehicle is stopped to fumble with digital technology, even if it is built into your car. It can wait.

News Sources: TODAY, NBC Connecticut