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Do vehicle safety systems make drivers less safe?

Computer programmers and vehicle manufacturers are working in concert toward the goal of safely autonomous vehicles in coming decades. To reach that point, though, they are taking steps to increase safety with various technological improvements. These advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) are specifically designed to keep roads safe, but are they having the opposite effect?

A study published by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety  found that a driver’s understanding of the limitations of a safety system can directly impact the possibility of being in a collision. The safe use of partial driving automation technologies – also referred to as “active driving assistance” or “Level 2” technologies – depends on the driver of the vehicle having a thorough understanding of what the system was and was not designed to do. Anecdotes from the past include the confusion regarding the purpose and limitations of both airbags and cruise control when those technologies were initially introduced.

The study looked specifically at “AutonoDrive” and “DriveAssist,” a real technology given two fictitious names to avoid any preconceived notions about the existing ADAS. Half the study participants received training materials for AutonoDrive that emphasized the system’s capabilities and driver convenience. The other half received training materials for DriveAssist that emphasized the system’s limitations and driver responsibility.

Participants in the AutonoDrive group were more likely to engage in risky behaviors. When actually driving, they spent more time with their hands way from the steering wheel and feet away from the pedals compared with those who received the training that emphasized the system’s limitations and encouraged driver responsibility.

The study concluded that unless drivers are given clear training about a system’s limitations and are only exposed to the positive impact of an ADAS, they are likely to assume that the technology system can do more than it was designed to. No matter the safety system, drivers must clearly understand the limitations of the system and their responsibilities while behind the wheel.

Distracted driving can lead to serious accidents with catastrophic injuries. If you were injured in an accident caused by a negligent driver, do not hesitate to seek legal guidance.