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27-04-2023 | Ergonomics + HMI | News | Article

Modern Means of Communication Distract Drivers too much

Author: Christiane Köllner

2:30 min reading time

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Selecting music, making phone calls, writing or reading text messages: Distraction while driving due to modern technology is becoming an increasingly common accident risk, according to the insurance company Allianz-Versicherung. 

Driver distraction due to modern technology is on the rise. The risk of accidents increases by around 50 % due to the operation of modern communication, entertainment and comfort technologies, as determined by the current Allianz Driver Distraction Study 2022. Safety researchers at the Allianz Center for Technology (AZT), together with the Gesellschaft für Innovative Marktforschung (GIM), surveyed more than 1,200 drivers last summer.

"The new Allianz study shows that the proportion of drivers who pick up their smartphone to read or send a text message increased by almost two-thirds between 2016 and 2022, from 15 to 24 percent," says Christoph Lauterwasser, head of the AZT. "This development is worrying and dangerous. Anyone who texts while driving increases their risk of an accident by more than 50 percent."

Operating the on-board computer is distracting

In addition, displays are increasingly replacing buttons, switches, knobs and sliders in vehicle operation. While in 2016 only one third of all drivers had a vehicle with a central field-of-view display for operating communication, entertainment and comfort functions (on-board computer), the percentage has now risen to almost 50 %. Around half of these respondents confirmed in the Allianz study that they were distracted by operating the on-board computer. This increases the risk of accidents by 44 %.

Some functions are particularly risky: For example, anyone who misuses a driver assistance function such as the lane departure warning system for non-driving activities and takes both hands off the steering wheel for a longer period of time increases their accident risk by 56 %. If the car radio is operated via the on-board computer, the risk almost doubles (89 %). Young drivers up to the age of 24 are particularly at risk of distraction: 30 % say they talk on the phone while driving with a smartphone in their hand (all drivers: 16 %). Four in ten say they type or read electronic messages with a cell phone in their hand - an increase by a factor of 2.5 between 2016 and 2022.

The risk is also rising for other technology distractions. The development is particularly rapid in the use of functions or apps beyond text messages, phone calls or navigation. "Cell phones or other hand-held electronic devices are increasingly being used for playing games, selecting music, looking at pictures, surfing the web or other purposes. In our 2016 survey, only six percent admitted to performing such activities while driving; by 2022, one in five (22 percent) confessed to this," says Lauterwasser.

Driver monitoring meets with rejection

According to the Federal Statistical Office of Germany, 8,233 people were injured in accidents in which distraction played a role in 2021, and 117 died, which is just under 5 % of all fatalities (2,562). However, according to Allianz safety researchers, the number of unreported cases is likely to be much higher.

Under the General Safety Regulation (GSR), the EU will require an Advanced Driver Distraction Warning (ADDW) system for all newly registered vehicles from July 2026. However, according to the Allianz study, a large proportion of respondents are skeptical about electronic monitoring of the driver, so-called Driver Monitoring, to detect driver conditions. Only 39 % of those surveyed would have agreed to a camera or infrared scan of the eyes, face or head, in which the technology anonymously detects only distractions.

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