Can Technology Make us Safer Drivers?

by Emily on September 2, 2014

in Articles

fujix100_road_carEvery year, automobile manufacturers come up with new technology for the [tp lang=”en” only=”y”]safety of passengers[/tp][tp not_in=”en”]safety of passengers[/tp], from seat belts, airbags, lane departure warning systems, active braking, blind spot detection features, and alert driving warnings, among others. In addition, there are also gadgets and devices designed to assist drivers, such as satellite navigation devices and GPS units. Mobile developers have also come up with thousands of apps that are designed for drivers stay connected while keeping both hands on the wheel.

Automotive safety systems such as airbags and seatbelts that are designed to improve one’s odds of surviving a crash are called passive safety systems, while those that are designed for the purpose of accident prevention are called active safety systems, such as GPS and when equipped with navigational apps, smartphones.

The big question

Auto manufacturers and app developers involved in creating passive and active vehicle safety systems mean well, but are these new forms of technology actually making us safer drivers, or are these potential distractions that can cause accidents? It appears that these make us become lax when it comes to staying aware of our environment, because the technology can do everything else anyway? Let’s take a closer look at these new car safety devices, particularly in-car GPS units and smartphones, and see if these do make us safer drivers.

In-car GPS

GPS enables drivers to know where they are going, especially if they are driving to an unfamiliar destination. Drivers rarely get lost with a GPS unit in use, and even if drivers miss a turn in the road, the GPS unit will automatically [tp lang=”en” only=”y”]recalculate the route[/tp][tp not_in=”en”]recalculate the route[/tp] and instruct the driver on how to get back on track, especially at night and during low-visibility conditions. GPS also eliminates the need for maps that, as any clueless driver pre-GPS knows only too well, can be a major distraction. Some GPS units also have safety features that include special buttons that show the nearest hospital or police station for emergencies.

However, GPS can distract drivers who become fully dependent on the technology, instead of paying attention to the road ahead and the surroundings. This is true especially for beginners who have a tendency to look at the GPS screen more than they should. Some drivers also tweak the GPS while the car is moving, instead of before departing.

Smartphones

Smartphones can do almost everything, so it’s no wonder that many drivers have chosen to install various mobile apps to their phones, such as traffic advisory apps and navigational apps. Smartphones also let drivers listen to music and podcasts while driving, let them know where the nearest petrol station is, and make calls hands-free.

Hands-free does not mean risk-free. There are many drivers who still text and drive and engage in social media sites while driving. Doing so distracts drivers and pulls their concentration away from being aware of their immediate surroundings, such as fellow motorists, traffic lights and signs, and pedestrians. “It’s just a Tweet,” some would say, but little do they realise that a couple of seconds of being distracted is enough to [tp lang=”en” only=”y”]cause a major accident[/tp][tp not_in=”en”]cause a major accident[/tp]. Many of the world’s worst auto accidents today involve a distracted driver.

The awful truth

New car technologies are designed to keep the roads safer for everyone, but only if everyone is using these technologies properly. Drivers do know that they shouldn’t be distracted while driving, but some still engage in other activities because they believe they won’t crash because they’re equipped with technology designed for safety. To conclude, road safety still largely depends on the person behind the wheel. Technology can help, but drivers cannot rely on it alone; they should also be responsible, alert, and concerned for the safety of others and not just of themselves.

 

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Geordie Moore September 3, 2014 at 18:37

Your final point is the most important. Accidents happen when the driver is not in charge of the situation: Turning right, reversing and not paying attention, and following too closely behind another car. If you didn’t have to do these things, you would avoid over 80% of all accidents. Having technology take over these points would save time, money, injuries, emergency personnel time, etc, etc. But…would a driver want to give up that much control? Even if one second’s lost attention at some point in the future could be fatal?

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