The idea of improving technology in cars to make them safer was heralded by organizations that saw the fatality numbers continue to rise year after year. Automakers immediately embraced the idea and incorporated safety devices into their vehicles. From collision detection to blind-spot warnings to automatic emergency braking, progress could minimize injuries and deaths.
Other technology that has been around longer may be undercutting the advancements in motor vehicles. Prominent insurance company Progressive released a report claiming that the growing availability of hands-free Bluetooth phone calls, voice commands, displays with touch screens, and entertainment systems – including gaming – is fueling the flames of distracted driving.
Advancements or setbacks?
The rise in severe and fatal accidents during a two-year time span that saw fewer cars on the road also set off alarm bells. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the first half of 20221 saw fatalities grow by nearly 19 percent, representing a skyrocketing increase that hasn’t been seen since 2006.
NHTSA data also shows that 8.7 percent of all fatalities result from distracted driving.
Not too long ago, there was a time when technology was considered a way to reduce distractions. Hands-free phone calls were touted for being safer. However, automakers did not factor in the distraction that comes from talking on the phone, whether in a house or behind the wheel of a car.
Progressive’s Snapshot program provided clear pictures of driver behaviors, both literally and figuratively. In 2020, 99 percent of enrolled drivers used their phones at least once while driving. The NHTSA found 2.6 percent in the same year, declining from the previous year’s 2.9 percent.
Head-up display systems have also been controversial. The technology provides speedometer readings and remaining fuel on the windshield. Some even allow text messages to appear for quick, if not distracting, reads.
In the end, each driver is responsible for paying close attention to the road surrounding them. A split-second radio channel change or quick peek at a text can carry catastrophic consequences.