Drivers warned against over-reliance on vehicle tech

Over-reliance may lead to distracted driving

By Sam Wildow - Miami Valley Today

MIAMI VALLEY — Technologies with the goal of assisting drivers in being safe on the roads may actually be leading to more distracted driving.

A new AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety study has found that drivers can become too reliant on the technology after becoming comfortable with it, leading them to multi-task and engage in other distracted driving behaviors, according to a press release from AAA. The results of the study found drivers who owned vehicles equipped with advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) were almost twice as likely to take their eyes off the road and be less engaged when using those technologies.

“We see a lot of the lane assist,” said Senior Specialist Kara Hitchens of the Dayton AAA office. Lane assist options can alert drivers their vehicles are drifting into another lane of travel without signaling or even self-correct the car’s steering. Hitchens said they are finding drivers are relying on lane assist features to do the work of driving instead of remaining engaged.

Also with other features, such automatic emergency breaking, Hitchens said, “People get distracted. People tend to let the car do that.”

As these technologies are meant to be assistance tools, AAA recommends drivers remember to continue to pay attention to the road and avoid distractions.

“Each and every driver needs to be fully engaged in their driving,” Hitchens said.

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety partnered with the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute to study distracted driving among two groups of drivers: those who already owned vehicles equipped with ADAS technology and those who were given ADAS-equipped vehicles to drive for purposes of the study.

During the study, researchers recorded and analyzed driver behavior using video cameras mounted in the cars. When simultaneously using adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assistance, these drivers showed a 50 percent increase in engaging in some type of secondary task and an 80 percent increase in performing tasks that divert their hands or eyes away from the task of driving, according to AAA. In contrast, motorists who were provided with an ADAS-equipped vehicle were more likely to engage in distracted driving behaviors while driving manually than while automated systems were active.

Overall, AAA’s research results found drivers who owned their vehicles and had more familiarity with ADAS technology were more likely to drive distracted when these systems were active than when they were not. Meanwhile, drivers with less experience using the technologies were more likely to remain attentive and engaged while the systems were engaged.

AAA’s researchers theorized drivers new to ADAS systems were less inclined to trust the functions, so they remained engaged while driving, while drivers familiar with ADAS systems were over-reliant on the technology, leading them to doing secondary tasks or become distracted.

Hitchens said that over-reliance on this technology may lead to “inattentiveness because of engagement in non-driving-related tasks” or even drowsiness.

“Advanced driver assistance technologies have a lot to offer in terms of comfort and safety, but they should never replace an attentive and engaged driver,” said Dr. William Van Tassel, AAA manager of driver training programs. “Remember, technology fails us daily while at work and at home. So, don’t get caught driving distracted when being focused on the road can save your life.”

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), distracted driving was linked to over 3,000 deaths in 2017 in the U.S. The NHSTA also reported:

• Nine percent of fatal crashes in 2017 were reported as distraction-affected crashes, which are crashes in which a driver was identified as distracted at the time of the crash.

• Six percent of all drivers involved in fatal crashes were reported as distracted at the time of the crashes in 2017. Eight percent of drivers 15 to 19 years old involved in fatal crashes were reported as distracted. This age group has the largest proportion of drivers who were distracted at the time of the fatal crashes.

• In 2017, there were 599 nonoccupants (pedestrians, bicyclists, and others) killed in distraction-affected crashes.

AAA advises drivers who are considering purchasing an ADAS-equipped car, or who may already own one, to learn as much as possible about the technology and its limitations. AAA recommends three simple steps for how to “ACE” your next vehicle rental or purchase:

• Always remain active and engaged when using ADAS technologies like lane-keep assist or adaptive cruise control.

• Commit to knowing which ADAS technologies are installed on your vehicle and how they work.

• Expect that the advanced driver assistance technologies in your vehicle to have limitations.

“ADAS has tremendous promise to improve the driving experience, but it’s not infallible. There still is no substitute for an alert, engaged driver,” said Hitchens.

Over-reliance may lead to distracted driving

By Sam Wildow

Miami Valley Today

Reach Sam Wildow at © 2019 Miami Valley Today, all rights reserved.

Reach Sam Wildow at © 2019 Miami Valley Today, all rights reserved.