Eyes on the road: how new car tech reduces distractions and helps safe driving

If your family’s anything like mine, I’m guessing that the inside of your car can sometimes feel like a bit of a zoo. But as a parent, I’m very aware that I have precious cargo on board, and distractions need to be strictly controlled in order to keep us all safe. So I’ve been looking into how technology is shaping up to support us driving safely – here’s my take on the biggest distraction issues and the car tech features designed to help avoid them.

The dangers of distracted driving

The latest research backs up a parent’s instincts about driving safely: distractions in the car are very dangerous, particularly for younger drivers aged 18-24. And the increase in the number of devices we need to negotiate in the car means that it’s all too easy to get distracted.

Let’s face it, many drivers are multi-tasking constantly, even commuters during motorway journeys, often chatting on phones, using sat navs, and drinking a coffee. Some people are daft enough to try to smoke as well, though that’s now banned if driving with kids. How much safer it would make us all if distracting devices were consolidated into one user-friendly console, that you could access without taking your eyes off the road. Well, I’m happy to say that my research into car tech has found great new systems on the market now which do indeed enable us to access all these things hands-free, via a single set of controls.

Cutting-edge anti-distraction car technology

For me, the essential devices for use in my car are: my smartphone, navigation and information systems, in-car entertainment and climate controls. With these in mind, here’s my top tips for car tech to manage all these:

• Mobile phones

The most obvious of all distractions. We know we shouldn’t be using them when driving. But we also know that texts coming in can sometimes get us to yet another unfindeable sporting event or party the kids are chomping at the bit to get at. What to do?

Well, texting whilst driving is a no-no – we’ve all got that message by now. But you can now use your phone with new in-car technology that reads out the texts for you. And it can access the contacts on your phone and call someone back for you too – all using voice recognition technology. Have a look at SEAT’s brilliant Drive App, available on models like the Ibiza, which even tweets out loud whilst you drive.

• Satnav

Once I’ve shushed the children enough for me to be able to hear the mum on the other end of the call my hands-free device has made, I often find I then have to change route, meaning juggling the satnav, when I’m invariably already late. How to arrive before all the icing is licked off the fairy cakes?

Again, car technology can do it for me, such as the innovative distraction-reducing SYNC system in the Ford Focus. I can use my satnav by voice recognition – a whole lot safer than looking away from the road to peer at a tiny screen whilst driving.

• Favourite music tracks

I don’t know about your kids, but mine frequently add half-a-dozen fall-outs over music to this mix of high-octane distractions. Anything – anything – to stop the constant bickering and occasional snarl ups that really make driving stressful.

No worries now, because I can flick through to the next radio station, or next track on the CD easily with controls that are in close fingertip or voice-control access. A top voice-system is the Apple-made Siri Eyes Free launched to fit the Intellilink system in the Vauxhall Adam, and now available on the Meriva and more – it can even access the music on my mobile itself without me having to pull in. Magic – peace at last.

• Traffic news

Do you sometimes find that it’s just not your day? We’re making good time, the new route’s worked out well and the kids are singing along in the back and – ohhhh. The traffic gradually slows and stops. D’oh, did you turn off the traffic news again?

Traffic alerts, weather updates and forecasts can all be accessed at the touch of a button in some new kits too – for example, the Peugeot 208’s integration system – so that you can quickly find out what’s ahead before you run into it.

• Heating

Always an essential on the way back from our weekly trips to the rugby pitch or the ice skating. No matter how carefully I’ve made my selection, one or other of my precious little tots wants it turned up higher. (And then of course, they later decide it’s got a bit hot, and they need some air.) No probs. I can make all those changes without dropping a gear; it’s standard for most of the super new in-car technologies.

Everyone who’s familiar with distractions in the car can see this technology makes sense. So why not have a look at the new cars now on offer, using my tips as starting points. If you want more information, you can contact your local Perrys dealership for really good advice. And look forward to peaceful driving ahead.