Distracted driving is once again in the news.
According to a report from The Seattle Times, in-car technologies like adaptive cruise-control and driver-assistance systems are making drivers more distracted while behind the wheel.
The study, which was carried out jointly by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute and the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, found that those who own cars fitted with assistance features are nearly twice as likely to drive while distracted.
Researchers claimed that these drivers are more likely to text, use the radio, and spend less time focusing on the road than others whose cars are not fitted with similar technology. Interestingly, researchers also found that drivers who are not used to the technology are less likely to become distracted when they are first introduced to in-car assistance features.
In the study, the group of participants who drove their own assistance tech-fitted vehicles would text, hold their cellphones, smoke a cigarette, or even look at a pedestrian for far too long, taking their eyes off the road.
Drivers who operated loaned vehicles fitted with the tech felt less at ease. This forced them to ignore distractions and focus on their driving. To researchers, this means that drivers who were not used to the assistant technology also didn’t trust it, making them less likely to use it regularly.
In their assessment, researchers said that even seasoned drivers may ignore the potential pitfalls associated with in-car assistance technology, even if they feel they are familiar with the system.
Inattentive drivers continue to worry Washington State officials.
In 2018, officials reported 24 serious or fatal distracted driving-related accidents in the Seattle area alone. Despite the high number, state law forbids the use of electronic gadgets while behind the wheel.
Drivers who ignore the law and are caught are fined $136 for the first offense and $234 for a second offense within five years.
Thankfully, there are organizations like the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety that are constantly looking into this problem to help drivers become less distracted. Unfortunately, some motorists don’t seem concerned about their safety, ignoring both the law and studies suggesting that distractions are a serious hazard.
For more on how auto assistance technology might be linked to distracted driving, click here.