Automotive Technology & Distracted Driving: Are Innovations Making Missouri Motorists Safer?

April 6, 2012,

236993_car_navigation_system_by_gps_1.jpgThese days, it seems like a car is now more of a piece of consumer technology than anything else. Today's drivers can talk to their friends, jam out to their iPod play lists and find their destinations without ever taking their eyes off the road, according to the Denver Post. Or at least that's the claim of manufacturers. In reality, an increasing array of distracting technology is being added to cars.

Some would argue that these devices are making our roadways safer by allowing drivers to multitask without ever taking their eyes off the road. Others argue that any type of electronic device in a vehicle serves as a distraction and increases a motorist's risk for a car accident.

"Consumers are wanting, expecting and you could say demanding more technology in their cars," said Tim Jackson, president and chief executive of the Colorado Automobile Dealers Association. "As their lives have become more technologically driven, they want those same creature comforts in their cars."

Our Missouri car accident lawyers understand that the race is on to have the most modern and technologically advanced car. Unfortunately, a number of these new devices, mostly designed to make your trip in the car easier, do nothing more than take driver attention away from the road and endanger all motorists. "Certainly, car companies should focus on streamlining the interface, enabling you to perform what you need to perform with a minimum of buttons being touched, maybe controls from the steering wheel," said Jeremy Anwyl, vice chairman of Edmunds.com.

Jim Buczkowski, director of Ford electronics and electrical systems engineering, concurs. "The most important thing we've found in our research and various studies is keeping your eyes on the road and hands on the wheel," Buczkowski said.

A number of electronic devices now allow you to make phone calls, reply to a text message, surf the Internet and get driving directions without ever taking your hands off the wheel or your eyes off the road. A number of these new features are all voice activated: Ford and Toyota are two companies that offer such features.

But the number of car accidents in our country are still entirely too high. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), nearly 5,500 people were killed in the U.S. in car accidents that reported distracted driving in 2009. The number one distraction reported in these accidents was the use of a cell phone - reported in nearly 20% of these accidents.

Kevin Hobbs , a vice president of marketing and communications for AAA, says that even voice-operated actions such as answering a phone call can be detrimental to a driver's safety. "We have found any sort of distraction increases the likelihood of being in a crash, even with hands-free options," Hobbs said. "We encourage people to eliminate as much distraction as possible."

Other safe driving advocates are on board with this message.

"A car is not a mobile device," says David Strickland, NHTSA administrator.

Last year, he told a crowd at the Telematics Detroit 2011 conference that he plans to oppose these new unsafe technologies that can contribute to distracted driving accidents.

Strickland is not saying that we should cut out every piece of technology in our vehicles. He's just saying that we need to limit the number of devices we have. He supports the use of useful IT-based functions, like Global Positioning System navigation, automated emergency notification and internal diagnostics. Strickland's concerns have more to with on-board systems for entertainment and social media.

"I'm not in the business of helping people tweet better," he said. "I'm not in the business of helping people post on Facebook better."

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports that a number of studies conclude that hands-free devices in vehicles eliminate a physical distraction but do nothing to reduce the cognitive distraction. In other words, when your mind is divided between more than one task, your performance suffers. Drivers increase their risks of an accident regardless of what kind of technology they're using.

If you or a loved one has been involved in a car accident in Springfield, Joplin, Cape Girardeau, Columbia, Kansas City, or elsewhere in Missouri, contact the personal injury lawyers at Aaron Sachs and Associates to schedule a free initial consultation. Call 1-888-777-AUTO, or visit our website.


Additional Resources:

Today's drivers expect more from their cars, triggering an influx of tech-infused vehicles, by Christian Toto, Denver Post

Highway safety chief: Car not a 'mobile device', by Kevin McCaney, Government Computer News

The Connected Car: Is New Technology Really Keeping You Safer?
by Kevin Chupka, Yahoo Finance

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