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Car dealers must help mitigate against 'dangerous distraction' of technology

Collecting a new car

Car retailers should be compelled to familiarise and educate customers with new in-car technology as part of new responsibilities towards road safety, according to IAM Roadsmart.

The road safety charity believes that Government and car manufactuerers should come together to enforce the steps before a car buyer leaves the forecourt or takes delivery of their new vehicle.

IAM RoadSmart made the call to coincide with September's new 70-plate numberplate and said that new car technology could help increase road safety and give dealers a “welcome boost” in sales, as motorists search for the latest models with the new number plate.

Neil Greig, director of policy and research at IAM RoadSmart, said: “Now is the perfect opportunity to highlight the importance of correctly using the latest in-car technology with the arrival of the new registration plate.

“Swiping a screen is replacing the turn of a button or dial so it is vital that car dealers educate motorists on how to correctly use these new systems, so that they are a safety benefit and not a potentially dangerous distraction.”

Several vehicle manufacturers have told AM that September will be a 'make-or-break' month, helping dealers to break even and claw back lost revenues as a result of the COVID-19 lockdown.

While most new in-car systems, such as infotainment and Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS), are designed to increase road safety, it needs to be used correctly, said the charity.

Data from research commissioned by IAM RoadSmart found that Apple CarPlay and Android Auto significantly affect reaction times and increase stopping distances.

The research found that the systems can impair reaction times behind the wheel more than alcohol and cannabis use.

Stopping distances, lane control and response to external stimuli were all negatively affected using Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

The reaction times of drivers tested was significantly slower at motorway speeds than someone who had used cannabis and five times worse than someone driving at the legal limit of alcohol consumption.

Greig said: “Driver distraction is estimated to be a factor in around a third of all road collisions in Europe each year.

“As the amount of in-car infotainment and ADAS features continues to increase, we believe car dealers have a responsibility to correctly educate their customers and ensure they are familiar with all the high-tech systems in their shiny new purchase before they leave the forecourt. It is also imperative that the Government and the vehicle manufacturers enforce and support this.

“We’re calling on industry and Government to openly test and approve such systems and develop consistent standards that genuinely help minimise driver distraction.

“Whether you’re buying a new car now or already own a vehicle with technology that is new to you, it is vital that you use it safely. Anything that distracts a driver’s eye or mind from the road is bad news for road safety.”

You can find out more about the study commissioned here

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