Does New Vehicle Technology Help or Hurt Driver Distraction?

by NPHM | May 18th, 2020

Research released in 2015 concluded that the average person’s attention span is four seconds shorter than it was in the year 2000. Four seconds may not seem like a lot, but it’s more than enough time to end up in a car crash if you become distracted while driving.

Studies that kick up a fuss about modern society’s inability to stay focused are often criticized for being too simplistic, but it’s a topic worth exploring for what it means for the average driver. The question at the heart of this topic is: are today’s drivers more distracted than those in years past?

Technology has given a driver’s mind endless reasons to wander. But some types of technology might also be able to save us from our increasingly scattered thought processes.

If the above research is true, and our collective attention spans are withering away, then we’ll get right to the point. You want to know if new vehicle technology helps or hurts driver distraction. We have answers.

So, Does Vehicle Technology Help or Hurt Driver Distraction?

Some of it helps, and some of it hurts. Let’s start with what’s not working as intended.

When Technology Distracts Us

A few common culprits tend to distract drivers more than others. Here are three examples.

Smartphones – Though smartphones aren’t necessarily vehicle-specific technologies, they’re omnipresent in our cars. Many of them even integrate with newer vehicles. The never-ending stream of texts, emails, and other notifications can and do distract drivers.

Research from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) suggests that from 2014 to 2018, the number of drivers using cellphones increased by 57%.

Navigational Systems – Whether you use your phone for directions, or you rely on an in-vehicle navigational system, you could be subject to distraction. Navigational systems are valuable tools for drivers, but they come at a cost.

Research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety concluded that the most distracting activity drivers engage in is entering in a destination into a navigational system. This one task took surveyed drivers an average of 40 seconds to complete. To avoid distraction, always input your destination before shifting out of park, rather than once you are on your way.

Infotainment Systems – In-vehicle “infotainment” systems, including personalized playlists, calling and texting, Wi-Fi, and more are now common in modern vehicles. These systems and the entertainment they produce can distract drivers cognitively, visually, and manually.

The same AAA study listed above found that many of these systems took drivers’ eyes off the road for dangerous lengths of time. As mentioned, some took up to 40 seconds of a driver’s attention. To put that in context, taking your eyes off the road for just two seconds doubles your chances of being involved in a crash.

When Technology Helps Us

Not all technology distracts drivers. Some actually help them by blocking out distractions and reducing the chance of collisions.

Automatic Emergency Braking – Automatic emergency braking has been around for years, but it’s more sophisticated than ever. Combined with similar features such as forward-collision warnings, these systems provide a valuable buffer between our vehicles and imminent dangers.

IIHS says that emergency braking systems and similar features reduce the number of rear-end collisions by 50%.

Lane-Departure Warnings – Lane-departure warning systems alert drivers when they drift out of their lanes without using their turn signals. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration suggests that car buyers look for this technology when shopping for vehicles because of these systems’ potential to reduce the risks of crashes.

Nearly two-thirds of respondents to a Consumer Reports survey said they trust their lane-departure warning systems to work every time, and 35% said this technology had helped them avoid a crash.

Communication-Blocking Apps – Many mobile device and cellular data providers offer technology that prevents drivers from operating mobile devices while their vehicles are in motion. Theses systems are voluntary, so it’s incumbent on drivers to be proactive to reap the benefits.

Examples of communication-blocking technologies include Apple’s Do Not Disturb While Driving mode, the AT&T DriveMode app, and Samsung’s In-Traffic Reply app.

The Consequences of a Distracting Task

Most drivers know that engaging in certain activities distracts them, but they may not know the extent to which they’re endangered by these actions. For example, reading just one text takes a driver’s eyes off the road for an average of five seconds. When traveling at 60 miles per hour, a vehicle will travel the length of a football field in that time.

Even hands-free devices and voice-activated systems take a driver’s mind off the task of driving. The National Safety Council said that drivers miss up to 50% of what’s happening around them when just talking on a cell phone. Researchers working with AAA found that drivers were impaired by distraction for up to 27 seconds after performing a voice-activated task.

Understanding the Limits of New Vehicle Technology

New vehicle technology continues to offer promising benefits to motorists. But, in many cases, it can be the cause of driver distraction. The technologies that do help us avoid accidents also require cooperation from drivers; for example, communication-blocking apps need to be activated by drivers, and forward-warning collision systems still require drivers to brake to avoid a crash.

Automated vehicles might be the ultimate tool to combat distracted driving, but it will be years before that technology becomes widespread on our roads. Until then, it’s up to us to focus on the task in front of us.

When a Distracted Driver Injures You, You Have Rights

When a distracted driver causes you harm, you have the right to demand payment for the costs of their actions. The at-fault driver’s insurance company owes you compensation, but don’t expect them to give you a fair offer without a fight.

Insurance companies will look for every reason to deny your claim or lessen the offer they make you. Insurance adjusters will use your words against you. Representatives of insurers will say that you were the one who caused a collision, even when you know that’s not true.

If you suffer an injury at the hands of a distracted driver in Ohio, contact the car accident attorneys at Nurenberg Paris to get the compensation you deserve. We’ll fight to make sure that insurance companies don’t take advantage of you.

Contact our team today at (216) 230-6384 to schedule a free consultation.