The Law Offices of Ossie Brown
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Are modern cars just too distracting?

Think about your standard car from the 1970s. In terms of technology, it had a radio, but that was about it. You had crank windows, not powered ones. You had a map in the glove box, not a GPS system built into the dash. Everything you needed to adjust had to be done by hand -- the mirrors, the seats, the heater and the music, just to name a few options.

By today's standards, these were very spartan, utilitarian cars. They got you from one place to another, but they did not do much else. Drivers kept their hands on the wheel and their eyes on the road.

Modern cars have evolved dramatically. The goal has always been trying to help drivers. The GPS makes it easier to get to your destination. The touchscreen in the dash allows you to adjust the heat, AC, radio and navigation in the same place. These systems give people more tech options than ever and help make driving a more enjoyable experience.

They also make it more dangerous.

The tech trap

The problem, researchers argue, is that these so-called infotainment systems take effort and attention to use. This is true for drivers of all ages. Drivers have to focus on the screen to make calls, type in destinations, follow directions or change to a different playlist.

Some of these systems also connect to smartphones, allowing people to stream music and podcasts -- among many other things -- from their phones. However, that just adds another element to the potential chaos. Now drivers have to look at the infotainment screen and the phone in their hands.

It's a trap. People love technology and enjoy the benefits. But it draws their attention away from the road. Someone who is listening to music while talking on the phone and trying to read the GPS directions off of a computer screen simply spends far less time and brain power watching the road. It's distracting. And distraction causes accidents.

The impact

Is this distraction the real reason that accident fatalities finally reversed a long-term trend and climbed since 2014? After all, the estimates from the U.S. Department of Transportation claim that around 37,150 people passed away in traffic accidents last year, in 2017. Technically, that is a drop of a mere 0.8 percent from the numbers found in 2016. That dip is deceptive, though, since the 2017 numbers still come in a staggering 10 percent higher than they were back in 2014.

Remember, drivers get distracted by far more than phones and outside devices they bring into the car. The actual tech built right into the vehicle can take their eyes off of the road. If you get seriously injured in an accident, make sure you know what legal rights you have to compensation.

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