The Big Story Blog

Are 'connected cars' a driving distraction, too?

Posted at 2:48 PM on December 14, 2011 by Paul Tosto
Filed under: Transportation

We've focused the reporting today around federal officials' calls for a national ban on the use of all electronic devices while driving. The reality is that the electronic distractions in cars are multiplying and, increasingly, built in to the driving experience.

Here's part of a Consumer Reports report from October:

Many safety advocates are wary of the effect that such systems will have on driver safety. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says they pose yet another potential source for driver distraction, already a growing problem. He told us in an interview that automakers "need to really think about all of these things that they're putting in automobiles now and what impact they have on the driver's ability to drive safely."

Moreover, that development comes at the same time that control systems in many models--the way you operate the audio, climate, navigation, and other systems--are becoming needlessly complicated (see Controls gone wild).

"All manufacturers are struggling with the question of balance between safety and technology," says Bryan Reimer, Ph.D., associate director of the New England University Transportation Center. "Just because you can provide the content doesn't mean you should," says Reimer, who studies the impact of technology on drivers. "In many situations, driving takes most of our attention; we're not capable of doing much more."


About Paul Tosto

Paul Tosto

Paul Tosto writes the Big Story Blog for MPR News. He joined the newsroom in 2008 after more than 20 years reporting on education, politics and the economy for news wires and newspapers across the country.