On average, drivers ages 55 to 75 take their eyes off the road for "more than eight seconds longer" than drivers age 21-36 when "performing simple tasks like programming navigation or tuning the radio using in-vehicle infotainment technology," the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety study said.
The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety is a nonprofit organization that researches the causes of traffic deaths and injuries and educates the public on ways to prevent crashes, according to its website.
Researchers used six different cars, all made in 2018, and had 128 drivers, divided into the two age groups, perform tasks such as using voice commands and touch screens, make a call, send a text and program navigation while they drove, the study said.
They found the technology created "potentially unsafe distractions" for everyone, but those in the older group were at a higher risk and took anywhere from 4.7 to 8.6 seconds longer to do the tasks, the study said.
While it took drivers in the younger group 31.4 seconds to input navigation, it took drivers in the older group 40 seconds. Sending a text and making a call took younger drivers 27.7 seconds and 17.7 seconds, respectively, but it took older drivers 33.8 seconds and 24.4 seconds, respectively.
But Jake Nelson, director of traffic safety advocacy and research, said in the study it's a "design problem" not an age problem.
Complex technology with complicated menus or voice commands makes it harder for older drivers to complete what should be simple tasks while driving, the study said.
"Designing systems to meet the safety and comfort needs of aging drivers would benefit all of us today, and for years to come," Nelson said, according to the study.
Seniors are becoming the fastest growing demographic in the country and, by the year 2030, they will make up 20% of drivers on the road, the study said.
"Specific design changes to in-vehicle infotainment systems, like improving voice-command technology, simplifying software menus, removing complex center console controls, and positioning system controls to allow drivers to keep their eyes on the road, would better meet the needs of older adults and make the systems safer for all drivers," the study said.
AAA recommends that drivers, especially those who are older, avoid using in-vehicle technology while driving unless it's for an emergency, practice using voice commands and touch screens while parked and avoid cars with a center console controller for infotainment technology, the study said.
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