Distracted drivingEnlarge Photo
Technology and driver distraction
Making the announcement of the 2012 technology trends in new vehicles, AAA’s experts warn that the increasing use of such technology in vehicles can create unintended consequences.
There are crash avoidance technologies such as lane departure warning and adaptive cruise control that will help reduce the impact of drivers who are distracted, and the AAA expects these could have a significant positive safety benefit for distracted driving and some other unsafe driving behaviors.
However, there are other technologies being promoted to address distracted driving that raise concerns among some safety advocates, the AAA tells us, that might in fact be encouraging people to engage in additional distracted driving behaviors behind the wheel by making it easier to do so, even tacitly endorsing these activities.
“People who wouldn’t write a text or type in a Facebook status update while driving might perceive voice-activated offerings through their vehicle as providing a safe way to do this,” Pritchett said. “A driver might think that ‘the auto manufacturers install seatbelts and airbags to make me safe, surely they wouldn’t install features that make me less safe’.”
One way to look at this is that such in-vehicle applications are “safer” than doing them through smartphones. In that respect, the AAA says it’s probably more accurate to refer to those in-vehicle applications as offering “less dangerous” ways of doing these things. And auto manufacturers are providing consumers with systems that offer them safer ways of doing things they’re already doing. But safety advocates lean in the opposite direction, essentially saying automakers shouldn’t enable or encourage people to engage in these types of distracting activities that make them more dangerous drivers.
The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety (AAAFTS) has two research projects underway to help better understand distractions and technology. University of Utah researcher Dr. David Strayer is doing simulator and some on-road research into different non-driving activities and their relative risk for distracted driving. The AAAFTS also recently commissioned MIT researchers to look at in-vehicle safety technologies and any unintended safety concerns they may present to real-world users.
The bottom line position of the AAA is that distraction is an issue for all drivers. “Much attention gets paid to new teen drivers due to their generally greater challenges with impulse control, their greater engagement with electronic devices, and their inexperience driving, to include managing distractions,” said Pritchett.