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The Latest Car Safety Features: Are They Making Us Worse Drivers?

As I'm writing this, I feel like the old man yelling at the neighborhood kids to get off his lawn.....but I feel the question needs to be asked:

"Are all these new car safety features making driving safer, or do they lull drivers into thinking that the car will take care of problems that occur on the road, so that the driver doesn't have to?"

I am concerned especially about young drivers, who have grown up learning to place great faith in technology. Do they place too much faith, for example in:

· Lane departure warning systems, so much that they don't feel they need to be aware of everything going on in front, behind and to the sides of them?

· Back up cameras, so much that they don't feel the need to look behind their car before they back up...because, if there's anything/anyone back there, the car will tell them?

· Front collision avoidance, so much that they feel a little distraction-texting, watching a cellphone movie or very loud music-is tolerable while driving, because the car will alert them to anyone suddenly crossing in front of them?

These safety features are the centerpiece of the car manufacturers' sales strategy. The pitch to car buyers: "These features let you drive with more peace of mind." In other words, "Our car will solve problems for you out on the road". I understand the potential advantages of these new safety features, and I understand why car makers want to use them to sell cars. But there is a danger in all of this. And the danger is in the not-so-subtle message that the car will now take over responsibility for the safety of those in the car.

Drivers still have to be good at their jobs.... I would argue especially since there are so many dangers on the road involving distracted and impaired drivers, both of which are sharply rising.

I do not advocate that we get rid of these new safety features. They definitely can be an advantage. However, it is now up to the car makers and, for example to parents and driving instructors who teach young people how to drive safely, to put these features in their proper place. They do not drive the car, and do not relieve its driver of any responsibility whatsoever for the car's safe operation.

They just help make a safe driver a little bit safer.


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