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Not Everyone is on Board with Vehicle Driving-Enhancement Tools

Just as motorists in other states across the country are doing, drivers in Ohio, too, are increasingly embracing new vehicle technologies that are emerging to help distracted drivers improve their odds of survival while on the road. The makers of these products stand by their wares and claim that they are working, stating that highway fatalities and car accidents are going down as on-board employment of high-tech voice-activated and other systems is increasing.

Not everyone buys into that assessment. Although there is broad consensus that certain activities, such as texting and talking on cell phones, have clear drawbacks and no benefits to motorists while driving, there is much less agreement among auto manufacturers, safety experts and other auto-related industry groups that the tools being developed and sold with the express aim of reducing distracted driving are achieving that goal. Some analysts argue that the tools themselves dangerous and encourage sloppy habits among drivers, with the ironic result that they are more likely to increase danger rather than reduce it.

One AAA executive, for example, states that a device that keeps a car moving at a similar speed to vehicles in front of it creates a sense of false security among drivers and actually decreases their driving focus by encouraging them to take their eyes off the road and turn their attention — however fleetingly — toward other stimuli.

A Volvo spokesman also acknowledges this propensity for motorists’ attention to waver when given the chance. He notes that engineers ensured that Volvo’s automatic braking system was built to kick in quite sharply and abruptly rather than smoothly, since Volvo didn’t want motorists to start taking it for granted and wander mentally while driving.

Notwithstanding the skeptics, though, the new driving tools — automatic cell phone disablers, navigation systems operated by a touch screen on the steering wheel, blind-spot detection systems and other technologies — are here to stay, and proliferating. Arguments between their proponents and critics are likely to intensify rather than abate any time soon.

Related Resource: “Distracted driving: ‘Deadly epidemic’ or storm in a teacup?” March 31, 2011