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Phones safer for drivers than in-car systems, local AAA says

Using a phone to call and navigate when on the road may be safer than using built-in systems in cars for travelers this holiday weekend, AAA officials say.

Fourth of July travel numbers are expected to shatter records, AAA Public and Government Affairs Manager Cindy Antrican said. The organization expects two million Ohioans to travel for the holiday, with 1.7 million using cars.

“This is probably the biggest increase in Fourth of July traffic that we’ve seen out on the road,” AAA Senior Public and Government Affairs Specialist Kara Hitchens said.

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Many of those will need to use navigation or take a call while on the road. According to a recently released AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety study, using phone systems is generally safer than using built-in car systems to do that.

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The Foundation found that the Android Auto and Apple CarPlay systems are safer than native safer than car systems when it comes to selecting and programming audio and calling and dialing.

Setting up navigation, however, rated as highly distracting among all three systems. Antrican said that it’s best to set up navigation systems before travelers leave their driveways.

“Although you can use these systems while you’re driving, it doesn’t mean you should,” Antrican said. “It’s OK to use navigation, it’s safe to use navigation, but don’t try to program it while you’re driving.”

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The two phone systems still distracted drivers for long periods of time, according to the study. Drivers took up to 33 seconds to complete a navigation task on phones, compared with 48 seconds on in-car systems. Hitchens said drivers can travel a distance of up to three football fields at just around 25 miles per hour in that time.

While programs like Google Maps can help drivers find their destination, programs that let drivers order coffee or create unnecessary distractions should be avoided, Hitchens said.

Not all of the native car systems were equally distracting, according to the study. Some, like the 2018 Chevrolet Silverado 1500, created only a moderate demand of attention from drivers. Others, like the 2017 Mercedes-Benz C300 Limited, created very high demand, the study said.

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“It’s not one size fits all,” Antrican said. “There’s different levels of distraction with any of the systems.”

The AAA hopes the study will encourage automobile makers to work with technology companies to eliminate distractions. Even moderate levels are still too high, Antrican said. She said ideally the systems will eventually become only as distracting as a built-in radio.

“They do a great job at designing safe vehicles,” Antrican said of automobile manufacturers. “So many strides have been made in terms of safety. We’ve got to get those other support things safer as well.”

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