Distracted driving — in all its forms — is the subject of much discussion these days … and for good reason. The risk of a crash is 23 times greater if a driver is distracted. And with our phones taking a greater priority in our lives, the possibility for distraction becomes greater as well. It’s a big problem — and one that automakers think can be solved by technology.

In fact, after some encouragement from the Department of Transportation , auto manufacturers have introduced a whole host of newfangled features designed to reduce distractions on the road. But with more smart tools being introduced every year, we have to ask: are they really making us safer, or are they distracting us even more?

Here are 3 car-tech innovations you may want to think twice about using while you’re cruising.

1. Dashboard displays

  • The perks
    Modern dashboard displays are looking more like mission control centers than the down-to-basics speedometers of yore. Car manufacturers insist that these modern displays incorporate large letters and icons that make them easy to read, while also integrating phone features to prevent drivers from messing with their devices behind the wheel. In other words, they’re meant to help keep your eyes on the road.

 

  • The distractions
    Maybe you’re a pro at chewing gum while walking, but your eyes can’t multi-task quite as well. Simply put, you can’t look at the road and a screen at the same time. The ability to read texts, check your Twitter mentions, and upload photos from your dashboard only entices your eyes away from the road in front of you, putting you at a higher risk of crashing.

2. Hands-free technology

  • The perks
    Time and again, it’s been proven that phones and safe driving don’t mix. Features like Bluetooth® connectivity and voice-controlled smartphones claim to enhance your safety by keeping your hands at the ready, which could increase your ability to react to a roadway emergency.
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  • The distractions
    Studies show that these devices may free up your hands, but they don’t free up your brain. Any way you cut it, if you’re having a conversation on the phone, you’re preoccupied (what’s known as cognitive distraction). The National Safety Council’s research shows that, whether using hands-free technology or not, drivers can miss seeing up to 50 percent of what’s around them while engaged in a phone conversation.

3. Self-braking systems

  • The perks
    It may be a few years before we see fully self-driving cars on the market, but semi-autonomous features like automatic emergency braking are making their way into new models. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration touts these systems as the future of auto safety for their ability to automatically react when the driver doesn’t.

 

  • The distractions
    Even in spite of their amazing potential, these semi-autonomous features can give drivers a false sense of security. If you think your car will brake for you, there’s a good chance your attentiveness behind the wheel will suffer. We’ve already seen instances of this — like the California driver who recently mistook his car’s autopilot feature for a designated driver and got behind the wheel after a few too many drinks. Moral of the story is, this technology isn’t designed to stop for you. It’s simply intended to act as a backup in emergency situations.

With technologies like these becoming more common in new car models every year, it’s vital that drivers be aware of the distractions they face on the road. That’s why Esurance recently surveyed drivers to learn more about their attitudes toward in-car technology and how it affects distracted driving. The results may surprise you. So next time you get behind the wheel, consider how your car’s features might influence your driving.

Safe and smart | Smart technology

about Jonathan

Jonathan is a word nerd, a food freak, and a travel junkie. By day, you'll find him weaving words for Esurance as a Senior Copywriter. But in his off time, he'll likely be digging into a new restaurant in his home base of Denver, Colorado, or white-knuckling his way down a mountainside on a weekend road trip.