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Are Driver Assistance “Safety” Features Actually Impairing Safe Driving?

Posted by Phillip Warren | Dec 18, 2019 | 0 Comments

A recent study issued by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Study suggests the answer is likely ‘yes.' While features like adaptive cruise-control and lane-keeping-assist technologies were designed to help drivers stay safe for extended periods, new research suggests technologies like these may be lulling drivers into letting their guards down and picking their phones up, putting them at a greater risk of getting into a car accident according to the AAA.

Read the full AAA report here.

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Do You Drive More Safely With Driver-Assistance Features?

Many drivers these days rely on back-up cameras, sideview mirror indicators, and adaptive cruise-control to aid them in driving, but do you feel perhaps your, your family members, or other drivers out there place too much trust in these systems?  While we all want the answer to be ‘no,' how often do you back up looking solely at the backup camera screen?  While Bill Horrey, leader of the AAA Foundation's Traffic Research Group advised, “We're definitely trying to reiterate to drivers that these systems are merely support systems and their role [as the driver] is to remain alert and attentive,” unfortunately, in an increasingly-technological world, we all are trained to rely more on technology in our everyday lives. This is why the AAA initiated the study.

The Purpose of the AAA Study

The study, issued December 17, 2019, was designed to assess the impact of emerging technologies that allow drivers to disengage from their driving responsibilities, for brief or extended periods of time.  The AAA analyzed data from the Naturalistic Driving Studies using vehicles that were equipped with what the industry has termed “advanced driver assistance systems” (ADAS).  The report is designed to help governmental oversight committees and manufacturers address potentially unintended outcomes of incorporating ADAS into newer model cars.

The Finding: Driver-Assistance Encourages Distracted Driving

In today's increasingly digital world, whenever you find yourself with a few free seconds or minutes—say, while standing in line at the grocery store, or waiting at a traffic light or in the elevator—what is often the first thing you do?  That's right.  We pick up our phones and start scrolling through the screen.  The same is true when we're driving (unfortunately) when we find ourselves stopped at a red light or in traffic.  Sadly, one of the findings of the AAA study revealed when driver-assistance features give us the impression the car is keeping us in our lane and/or a safe distance from other vehicles, drivers find themselves twice as likely to feel they have free time to pick up their phone and engage in distracted driving.

The Solution: Stay Alert and Attentive

While the AAA study does not mean driver-assistance features are inherently dangerous (when used in conjunction with an alert driver, they have saved lives), it suggests to the auto industry that driver attentiveness must remain a critical priority. Manufacturers need to make drivers aware of the limitations of the systems in that they cannot make sophisticated decisions on the road.  Often a terrible accident can be avoided in mere seconds with a quick reaction and an alert driver.  Keeping your hands on the wheel and eyes on the road, at all times—even if there are many features on your car you feel are looking over your shoulder doing the same—can mean the difference between a mere close call and a terrible impact that changes your entire life.  You can decrease the odds of a moment like this happening to you by staying alert and focused.  Driver-assistance features are meant to do only that: assist.

About the Author

Phillip Warren

Phillip devotes the same honor, courage, and commitment to his clients as he did in the USMC.

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