Today’s cars are more technologically advanced than ever before. In-vehicle safety systems such as airbags, backup cameras, electronic stability control, lane departure warnings, and voice command technology are supposed to keep us safer on the road. But is it possible that all this technology just serves as another distraction behind the wheel?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than nine people are killed and more than 1,100 are injured in distracted driving-related motor vehicle accidents each day in the U.S. Although texting and the use of hand-held cell phones still top the list of the most common forms of distracted driving, safety features such as navigation systems and voice command systems can also take a driver’s attention away from the road.
Distracted Driving Research
As cars get more advanced, researchers have begun to examine how technology affects motorists. The official U.S. government website for distracted driving, distraction.gov, states that so-called “cognitive distractions”, which include anything that takes a driver’s mind off driving, cause motorists to miss critical cues that help them avoid crashes and near-crashes.
For example, hands-free technology may allow a motorist to talk on a smartphone without holding it or looking at the screen, but it still forces the motorist to divide his or her attention between driving and carrying on a conversation. A study conducted by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute revealed that “portable hands-free and vehicle-integrated hands-free cell phone use involved visual-manual tasks at least half of the time, which is associated with a greater crash risk.”
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) also reports that drivers who regularly use hands-free devices also frequently end their calls by touching their smartphone screens. These drivers also resort to using their phones manually when the voice command system fails to recognize a command. The result is that hands-free systems can end up being just as dangerous as traditional text and talk options.