New car technology has made huge advances. Not only can drivers connect their phones to their vehicles to help stream music or integrate GPS data, they can also use the technology embedded into the vehicle itself to take care of driving responsibilities, including parking and collision prevention. Technological advances in the latest and greatest vehicles may also include advanced climate control options, 360-degree cameras, and GPS units integrated into the car itself.
All of these advances offer drivers the ability to control more of what happens on the road and in their vehicles than ever, but at a cost: Those advances can also lead to substantially more distracted driving. If you suffered injuries in a distracted driving accident, an experienced distracted driving accident lawyer.
Understanding Distracted Driving
Distracted driving occurs in one of three forms:
• Manual distraction takes the driver’s hands off the wheel.
• Visual distraction takes the driver’s eyes off the road.
• Cognitive distraction takes the driver’s attention off the road.
When most people think of distracted driving, they imagine teens staring down at their cell phones while attempting to navigate traffic—or perhaps that mom in the minivan zipping off to her next appointment while needing to settle down unruly toddlers in the back seat.
Distraction, however, can constitute conversing with people in the car, conversations via a cell phone, eating and drinking, putting on makeup, fumbling for something in the vehicle, and, yes, technology—including the technology offered by cars themselves.
How Does Car Technology Increase Distraction?
While much vehicle technology helps increase safety on the road, including lane departure warning systems and 360-degree cameras that provide full visibility around a vehicle, other technologies can pull drivers’ attention away from the road and prevent them from fully noting what happens around them.
Many of the technologies offered by modern vehicles require someone to operate them. Sometimes, that means the person in the front passenger seat. More often, however, the driver takes care of all those manipulations, from turning up and down the temperature in the vehicle to managing the music. Unfortunately, all of those changes require the driver to remove at least one hand from the wheel and two eyes from the road long enough to perform those actions.
Modern vehicles provide a host of visual distractions, especially if you connect your phone to the vehicle. Notifications from your phone may pop up directly on a big screen in the vehicle, displaying incoming phone calls, text messages, and even emails. Looking down long enough to read them can quickly result in an accident. Not only that, many modern vehicle controls rely on a touch screen, which means drivers can not just reach over and manipulate the controls without looking.
Visual distractions may also result from pop-up notifications from the vehicle itself, including warning lights that indicate a potential collision hazard. Drivers who connect a phone to the vehicle may also attempt to adjust music on that device.
In-vehicle or app-based GPS systems can also pose a potent visual distraction. These systems often provide real-time notifications about the road, which can provide drivers with incredibly valuable information that may help them recalculate their routes to avoid traffic snarls or remain aware of the speed limit. Unfortunately, these devices also cause drivers to look away from the road, which could lead to enough of a distraction to cause an accident.
Cognitive distractions can, for some drivers, prove even more dangerous than visual or manual distractions. When the driver’s attention drifts away from the vehicle, it often leads to substantial cognitive distractions, including loss of attention to the road and other drivers. Many of the technologies available in modern vehicles pose substantial cognitive distractions: music apps, which may lead to more daydreaming than traditional car radios; GPS input that can leave drivers thinking about the route instead of the road in front of them; information from dozens of different systems within the vehicle itself, all popping up at once.
Preventing Distraction Behind the Wheel
While modern vehicles certainly come with a host of potential distractions, they do offer some solutions as well. Modern technology aims to help prevent distracted driving, especially as it becomes increasingly common.
• Crash avoidance systems
• 360 cameras and warning alerts
• Automated driving systems
• Distracted driver warning systems
• Lane departure warnings
• Drowsy driver detection
Users can also install apps that can help prevent distracted behavior. Some insurance companies offer apps that can help track driver behavior, making drivers more aware of their distractions behind the wheel. Other apps can turn off certain phone functions, including the ability to accept calls and texts, while traveling at or above certain speeds.
Driver behavior and choices, however, remain more important than apps and technology. Consider these important measures to help keep yourself safer behind the wheel:
• Turn off your phone and leave it in a safe location, where you will not face temptation if it rings or buzzes with a text message.
• Take care of any potentially distracting tasks before setting your car in motion. Turn on your preferred music and set a playlist that you can listen to all the way to your destination. Program your GPS before pulling out onto the road. Adjust temperature controls before you start driving. These simple measures take only seconds when you get in the vehicle, but they can substantially decrease distractions once you start driving.
• Pull off the road if you need to deal with a distraction. Find a parking lot or a convenient shoulder, rather than addressing concerns while driving the car.
• Do not use non-essential features of your vehicle or use the in-vehicle touchscreen while driving unless absolutely necessary.
Distracted driving poses a substantial risk to everyone on the road. Many drivers fall into the habit of trying to multitask from behind the wheel, which can increase their overall danger even more—and the technology available in many vehicles can pose a potent distraction that many drivers assume they can handle, since it comes along with the vehicle. With these steps and an experienced Houston personal injury attorney to provide valuable legal advice, however, you can decrease distraction and keep yourself and everyone else on the road with you safer.