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Does Car Technology Make Roads More Dangerous?

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texting while driving distracted driving cell phone dangerous
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With all of the new technology available in cars these days, the dream of the perfect road trip is more advanced than ever. Beyond hitting the road with the windows down and music playing, dashboard GPS systems and hands-free calling technology means you’ll likely never get lost or lonely. 

Unfortunately, some of those fun features can lead to less than fun mishaps. New automotive technology means new opportunities for the driver to put themselves and others in danger. Just because new tech exists doesn’t mean it’s safe or effective, and car owners should consider both the risk and reward of the following technology. 

Hands-free technology

We all know using your cell phone while driving is a no-no, even if it is still legal in your state. Many car manufacturers have adapted by offering “hands-free” features that allow drivers to make calls without actually using a phone. Bluetooth may seem like a better option than physically using your device, and in many cases it is, but there are still risks associated with any type of cell phone use while driving. Essentially, phones used by any means while driving can cause risky distractions. 

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, distracted driving caused more than 3,100 deaths in 2017. Even though hands-free functionality in cars may seem like a safer alternative than holding your cell phone, drivers who are having a mobile conversation can miss seeing up to 50 percent of what is around them, according to the National Safety Council. Talking on the phone while driving is a form of multitasking, which can lead to errors in judgment and reaction times. 

To help cut down on crashes caused by cell phone use, states have enacted laws to curb distracted driving. Those with the strictest regulations regarding handheld phone use were found to see 25 percent fewer distracted driving deaths when compared to the national average.

Dog mode

Luxury car manufacturer Tesla now offers “dog mode,” a setting that maintains a comfortable temperature inside a vehicle for Fido while you make a quick run into the grocery store. The touch-screen dashboard can also display a message in large letters that inform concerned passerby about the interior temperature control and that the owner will be back shortly. 

While that seems like a great solution to an obvious problem, some experts worry that this feature will encourage drivers to leave their dog — or potentially their children — in the car unattended for extended periods of time. If the technology malfunctions, which technology is known to do, then whoever is left in the car could be put at risk. Plus, in many states, it is illegal to leave your dog in the car regardless of circumstances or fancy technology.

If leaving a pet in the car in your state is illegal, fines and criminal charges can cost you big time. Depending on the insurance coverage you have, you may also be responsible for the damage your car incurs when someone attempts to rescue your dog. So if you live in a hot state like Texas, where car insurance costs $2,330 a year on average, you may be out in the cold when it comes to trying to file a claim. 

Driver-assist features advanced driver assistance systems

Advanced Driver Assistance Systems like collision warnings, backup cameras, and emergency braking can be an actual lifesaver by working to counteract human error. 

Yet as beneficial as the technology can be, a 2018 survey by AAA shows that drivers may be getting too comfortable behind the wheel. In regard to owners of cars that come with blind-spot monitoring (BSM), 30 percent reported relying solely on the technology — and not a manual check — at least some of the time. Additionally, 29 percent of owners with cars with adaptive cruise control say they occasionally feel comfortable enough with the speed monitoring system to do other activities while driving.  

There also tends to be a lack of understanding of how exactly these systems function. The same study, for instance, notes that 33 percent of drivers didn’t realize that their automatic emergency braking system relied on cameras that can be clouded by dirt, snow or ice. Combine that with the abundance of naming conventions introduced by car manufacturers and regulatory agencies (AAA found 40 different names for automatic emergency braking alone) and drivers may end up relying on a system to kick in when it’s not actually programmed, or able, to do so. 

Young drivers, in particular, should be cautious about ADAS — learning how to drive with the help of this technology can hinder your ability to react if it malfunctions or if you end up in an older vehicle without advanced technology features. 

Rideshare services

Rideshare apps like Uber and Lyft have increased safety in many ways. They offer a convenient way to get home if you’ve indulged in too much alcohol or transport you to areas you aren’t familiar with. Rideshare services are also great for certain demographics like the elderly or inexperienced drivers who shouldn’t drive under certain circumstances, like poor weather conditions. But these apps can also present certain dangers. Riders should take a few precautions to make sure they arrive at their destination safely. 

  1. Make sure you get in the right car. There have been instances of criminals posing as Uber or Lyft drivers in order to lure unsuspecting passengers into their cars. A way to ensure you get in the correct car is to confirm the name of the driver with your assigned driver on the app before you enter the vehicle.
  2. Keep an eye on your driver and make sure they are driving safely. You should also ensure you are being safe by wearing your seatbelt at all times. 
  3. Utilize “trip-sharing” features that alert loved ones of your ride and allow them to track your progress. It can also help to call a friend or family member once you get in the car and tell them that you have enabled the safety feature so the driver can hear you. Doing so could help you deter crime. 

The bottom line

As a society, we all work together every day to make our world safer and more efficient, but we also need to be cautious of the dangers that technological advances bring. The automotive industry is no exception — car manufacturers and drivers both need to tread lightly when it comes to adopting new automotive features. 

This article was contributed by Mark Fitzpatrick with