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Are touchscreens making cars more dangerous?

In a crowded market, automakers must constantly look for new ways to appeal to customers. Nowadays, it is common to see large touchscreens both drivers and passengers can use to control temperature, change musical selections and even adjust seats or mirrors. 

While touchscreens may give modern vehicles a technologically advanced and even futuristic feel, they may also increase accident risk. That is, if drivers pay too much attention to their touchscreens, they may not have time to avoid a serious collision. A malfunctioning screen may also be dangerous. 

The dangers of distracted driving

According to statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, distracted driving played a role in almost 10% of fatal car accidents in recent years. Using a vehicle’s touchscreen may cause the following four types of distractions: 

  • Manual distractions, where drivers remove hands from the wheel to touch the screen 
  • Visual distractions, where drivers look at the screen instead of the road 
  • Mental distractions, where drivers think about how to access apps on the touchscreen 
  • Auditory distractions, where drivers listen too intently to sounds coming from the touchscreen 

The possibility of a malfunction

As carmakers link more vehicle functionality to touchscreens, there is a chance a malfunctioning screen may contribute to a serious collision. 

For example, Tesla recently recalled 135,000 vehicles due to the possibility of touchscreens going dark. With affected vehicles, drivers may lose the ability to use the defrost feature to clear fog from windows. 

For now, a malfunctioning touchscreen may be more an inconvenience than a safety issue. Still, it is not hard to see how faulty touchscreens may increase car accident risk in the not-too-distant future. 

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