Every year, we're introduced to new car features, electronic devices, and smartphone apps that promise to increase safety, make our lives easier, and automate tasks. Often, the benefits of these technologies are a matter of opinion and personal preference, but what about their collective effect on our attentiveness, especially while driving? Even safety and time-saving technologies require our brain power and some amount of time to learn and operate. How does this affect our ability to pay attention to the road?
The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) defines distracted driving as "any activity that diverts attention from driving, including talking or texting on your phone, eating and drinking, talking to people in your vehicle, fiddling with the stereo, entertainment or navigation system—anything that takes your attention away from the task of safe driving." The DOT cites distracted driving as the cause of 3,477 deaths in 2015!
As new technology is introduced and existing technologies are enhanced, we encounter more and more distractions while we're driving, and most of us are unable and/or unwilling to ignore these distractions. In some cases, we assume that if a technology is available, it must perform better than any actions we could take on our own. Consider these statistics from a CARFAX safety study:
Over half of survey respondents "fully" trust their car's safety technology, to the point where they do not practice old-fashioned safe driving habits or manual visual checks.
A quarter of respondents do not look over their shoulders when backing up because they rely completely on their back-up camera.
Drivers equipped with technology like Bluetooth connectivity are 16% more likely to use their smartphones for tasks like social media while driving than drivers who lack the ability to connect through their vehicles.
Safety technologies in vehicles
Of course, many technologies available to us in vehicles were designed to make driving safer, such as hands-free phone connectivity, collision and lane departure alerts, blind-spot monitors, rear cross-traffic alerts, surround-view systems, and automatic parking systems. However, even these safety-minded systems can backfire and cause us to lose focus on our driving.
Though we may keep both hands on the wheel when issuing voice commands to our Bluetooth system or smartphone virtual assistant, it takes our brains up to 27 seconds to fully focus on the road again after speaking a command. In that half minute, we could easily collide with another object or vehicle.
Reading or sending a single text message requires us to take our eyes off the road for five seconds, more than enough time to miss seeing something in our path.
In their efforts to give us a full view of possible obstacles in our environment, surround-view or birds-eye-view cameras also show us a number of people and objects that could pull our attention away from driving.
Some of the more complicated vehicle safety features, such as automatic or override brakes, are poorly understood by drivers. Without an accurate understanding of these systems' functionality, drivers may not take appropriate action when a collision is imminent.
Take control of the wheel
It's important to remember that vehicle and personal technologies are meant to aid us in safety and convenience. We should not rely on technology completely, abandoning our common sense or tried-and-true human safety checks. Given that we will continue to encounter new distractions as technology advances, it's our responsibility as drivers to make sure we're focused on the road and in control. In addition, you should always make sure you've protected your vehicle and yourself with proper auto insurance. Get a quote today!