Safety experts tell us that advances in auto safety technologies over the last decade are working. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says these driver safety features are saving lives by preventing some fatal and serious car accidents including:
- Forward collision warning
- Automatic emergency braking
- Blindspot warning
- Lane departure warning
However, there’s also considerable evidence that some drivers mistakenly believe that these safety gadgets means they can pay less attention to their driving. Nothing could be further from the truth. The NHTSA says that distracted drivers cause nearly one out of every 10 car crash death, and some new safety features actually create more distractions than they prevent.
Some safety features are increasing driver distractions
A recent study by Progressive identifies three types of technology that can be quite distracting:
- Hands-free Bluetooth phone calls: While hands-free calling means you don’t manually dial the number, the phone call itself is a distraction. You still aren’t focused on driving.
- In-car infotainment systems: Some newer cars have hundreds of buttons to control the radio, climate control and even the safety systems themselves. These are usually touchscreens, which means you have to take your eyes off the road to choose the button you want to press. And, most of these systems have a series of menus to navigate while driving.
- Head-up displays: This system projects the car’s speed, fuel amounts and additional functions on the windshield creating more distractions. While collision warnings are crucial, displaying text messages and other unnecessary information is downright dangerous.
If you are easily distracted while driving, it’s a good idea to turn off these features and any others that take your mind off the highway.
The brain behind the wheel is the most important safety feature
Automakers have steadily added automated safety systems to their vehicles over the past decade. But has it made things safer? Nope. The total number of accidents has declined over the past couple of years, primarily due to the pandemic. However, fatal accidents rose over 18% during the first part of 2021, the most significant increase since 2006. While fewer crashes happened, statistics show drivers are engaging in riskier behavior, which leads to more deaths.
Some believe technology means they can pay less attention to their driving. Does the lane departure warning mean you can take your hands off the wheel while driving? Of course not, but some do. Does Tesla’s Autopilot system mean your car gets you automatically to your destination? No, but one Tesla driver was caught napping while speeding 80 mph down an Illinois interstate.
Unfortunately, there is no technology that offers complete protection against drivers who don’t engage their brains. Enjoy your safety features, but be reasonable. And, if you are injured by a distracted driver, let a legal professional help you hold them responsible.