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Evolving anti-crash technology: Double-edged sword?

The widely accepted notion about new safety features and vehicle enhancements is that they are drastically improving driver and passenger safety. And there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that: Safety advancements such as anti-lane drift technology, rear-view cameras, emergency brake assists and others have been designed in hopes of preventing thousands of car accidents every year.

There might be some unintended drawbacks to this safety movement, though, and as cars become more autonomous and “safe,” they might also be creating new hazards. Those dangers may stem from the effects of a human behavior principle known as the Yerkes-Dodson law.

This theory postulates that an individual’s focus is the product of the amount of stimuli that is motivating him or her. It’s easy to have a steeled focus when driving in inclement weather, but what about when driving on a straight highway, under a cloudless sky, with cruise control leading the way? Boredom and/or distraction is more likely to strike, both of which can increase the risk of a motor vehicle crash.

Driver negligence is a serious threat to roadway safety in Ohio and nationally, as has been exemplified by the increase in accidents caused by distractions like texting and using smart phones. The flip side to a perceived safer environment is that such comfort could actually increase a driver’s likelihood to engage in aggressive or risky driving behaviors, feeling confident that he or she will be protected from a serious injury.

Of course, safety features only increase driver safety — they’re not impervious to accidents. If and when drivers start to think otherwise, they could be putting themselves and others at considerable risk.

Source: Digital Trends, “Driving under the influence: Why car safety tech might actually be making us more dangerous behind the wheel,” Jacob Joseph, Jan. 23, 2013

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