Drivers aged 55 to 75 took 4.7 to 8.6 seconds longer to complete tasks, experienced slower response times, and had increased visual distractions when interacting with in-vehicle infotainment systems as compared to drivers 21 to 36 years old, according to a new study.
The findings come from recent research conducted by the University of Utah in conjunction with the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
On average, older drivers removed their eyes and attention from the road for more than eight seconds longer than younger drivers. Yet taking one's eyes off the road for just two seconds doubles a driver's risk of getting into a crash, notes the AAA Foundation.
While the research involved drivers of passenger vehicles, the AAA Foundation says the results translate to commercial fleet drivers when using various technologies like voice-based or touchscreen features in the vehicle. The cognitive and visual demands created by these technologies extend the time that drivers have their eyes and attention off the road — posing a serious safety risk, especially for older drivers.
The new report examines driver response time when performing specific tasks related to infotainment systems.
While on average it took younger drivers 18 seconds to program audio entertainment, it took older drivers 25.4 seconds to complete the same task.
As for calling and dialing, younger drivers spent 17.7 seconds on average, but these tasks took older drivers 22.4 seconds.
Both younger and older drivers spent the longest amounts of time on text messaging and navigation entry. Specifically, it took younger drivers 27.7 seconds to send a text as compared with 33.8 seconds for older drivers.
Programming the navigation system required more than 31 seconds on the part of younger drivers, but demanded a full 40 seconds of time from older drivers.
Overall, the complex design of infotainment systems created increased visual and cognitive demand for older drivers. For example, some systems included multiple menus and cumbersome voice command functions that significantly reduced older drivers' ability to easily complete seemingly simple tasks.
The report also explores mode of interaction — for example, using a center stack display, center console, or auditory/vocal commands — and its impact on drivers.
Both older and younger drivers felt voice commands were less demanding to use than the center console or center stack controls. Yet tasks undertaken using auditory/vocal commands took the longest to complete, followed by center console controls. The center stack interactions were the shortest.
Older drivers took longer to complete tasks across all modes of interaction, regardless of how the task was completed. Finally, visual demand was higher for older drivers using all modes of interaction as compared to younger divers.
A total of 128 drivers ages 21 to 36 and 55 to 75 participated in the study with six 2018 model-year vehicles.