Why it matters: Car infotainment software such as Android Auto and Apple CarPlay is incredibly popular among drivers, but a new study suggests that interacting with vehicle infotainment systems can impair reaction times more than alcohol and cannabis.

A simulator study undertaken by TRL on behalf of IAM Roadsmart—the UK’s largest independent road safety charity—the FIA, and the Rees Jeffreys Road Fund, showed how much drivers’ reaction times slowed based on different scenarios.

It typically takes an undistracted driver one second to react to something. That increases by 12 percent when they’re at the drink-drive limit, 21 percent if they’ve been using cannabis, and 35 percent if they’re texting. When using Android Auto (touch) it goes up to 53 percent, and Apple CarPlay is even higher—57 percent.

The study found that drivers interacting with their infotainment touch screens increase their vehicle’s stopping distance by between four and five car lengths. They also take their eyes off the road for up to 16 seconds while driving. “Participants underestimated by as much as 5 seconds the time they thought they spent looking away from the road when engaging with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay via touch control,” wrote IAM Roadsmart.

Additionally, drivers interacting with Android Auto or Apple CarPlay struggled to keep their vehicle’s position in a lane, swerving out of place by up to 21 inches. They also failed to maintain a constant speed and distance from the vehicle in front.

While using voice commands did improve reaction times compared with touching infotainment screens, this still increased the non-distracted time by 36 percent.

IAM Roadsmart is calling for further testing and the introduction of new industry standards for infotainment systems to help minimize driver distraction. It advises owners to use them in the safest possible way, including setting everything up before starting a journey.

Image credit: Hadrian via Shutterstock