"The surprise here is that these are technologies built and marketed as making us safe and less distracted behind the wheel", notes Jake Nelson, AAA's Director of Traffic Safety and Research.
Programming navigation was the most distracting task, taking an average of 40 seconds for drivers to complete, the group noted.
The study looked at what the most taxing task is while driving, what it physically and mentally takes to complete a task, and how these demands vary across vehicle systems. That's long enough for a vehicle going 25 miles per hour to travel more than a quarter mile - while the driver is preoccupied with their Global Positioning System. Programming navigation while driving was available in 12 of the 30 vehicle systems tested.
With one in three US adults using infotainment systems while driving, AAA cautions drivers that using these technologies while behind the wheel can have risky consequences.
But with Strayer's research, it seems that the argument is focusing on the dangers that complicated technology and their interfaces, present inside a vehicle.
AAA is critical of manufacturers enabling features unrelated to the core task of driving, such as sending a text message and checking social media.
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"Visual and mental attention is key to safe driving, yet many technologies can cause drivers to lose sight and focus of the road ahead", the study said. A low level of demand equates to listening to the radio or an audiobook, while very high demand is equivalent to trying to balance a checkbook while driving.
Hands-free technology doesn't mean risk free. It wants automakers to work more on making screen-based systems quicker and more intuitive to use, with navigation programming and texting on auto screens both disabled while in movement.
In 2012, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released a set of voluntary guidelines advising automakers to block access to tasks when vehicles are not parked.
"These are solvable problems". In response, some have called for automakers to allow drivers to disable certain infotainment controls while the vehicle is running.
AAA said drivers should use infotainment technologies "only for legitimate emergencies or urgent, driving-related purposes".
The study, performed in conjunction with the University of Utah, included 30 model-year 2017 vehicles and 120 drivers between the ages of 21 and 36.
NY state's Democratic governor, Andrew Cuomo, told the Associated Press in July that the state is testing technology that will allow police to identify drivers who are texting and driving.