Backup cameras. Automatic parking. Collision warnings. In the last few years, new car technology has accelerated, with automakers rolling out a never-ending stream of gadgetry and in-car safety features. There’s no denying smart car tech is here to stay many of these technologies now come standard in new cars but how are consumers adapting to this new technology? CARFAX® recently released their 2017 Car Tech Safety Study, “In Car Technology We Trust,” which collected information from more than 1,000 drivers using in-car safety features and gives valuable insight into how new car technologies may be impacting driver behavior.

Changing driving habits

The survey results revealed that consumers who have positive personal experiences with in-car technology have largely come to trust that technology to keep them safe.

But consumer confidence in new car technology may also be affecting the way we operate our vehicles. The survey results found:

  • Only 25 percent of drivers with backup cameras look over their shoulder through the rear window while backing up
  • 30 percent of drivers with backup cameras check the camera first before backing up

What driver education courses have always taught as the correct and safe way to back up a vehicle (looking first over your right shoulder and out of the rear window while in reverse) is now being routinely supplanted by the very presence of backup camera technology.

Similarly, drivers with in-car Bluetooth® connectivity are much more likely to use their devices to talk, text, or use social media while driving, compared to drivers who don’t have in-car tech. Even when using hands-free technology, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates this behavior causes 4 times the number of crashes.

(Related: Is semi-autonomous tech making us more distracted?)

The car tech learning curve

So where does that leave us? We know some car tech has been proven to help reduce accidents (specifically backup cameras and automatic braking),
but car tech can also lead to greater distractions on the road. Survey findings suggest today’s drivers may not fully understand how to safely integrate new car technology with their existing driving habits. Many admit to not taking the time to understand how to properly use smart tech features at all:

  • 62 percent ask the dealer or previous car owner about how to use in-car tech
  • 58 percent “try it and see how it works”
  • 55 percent read their car manual

Education is everything

While the automotive industry continues to make many of these features standard, consumers need to take the time to learn how to properly use the technology. As CARFAX editor Jim Sharifi explains, “It’s important to remember that while safety technology is continually evolving, these are still driver aids, meaning that they are not a substitute for safe driving habits. These features can improve driver confidence and add a layer of convenience, but drivers still need to be alert and aware of their surroundings.”

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Safe and smart | Smart technology


about Rebecca

Rebecca is a freelance copywriter and editor living in the SF Bay Area with her husband and two kids. She enjoys productively channeling her anxiety into safety-minded articles for home and garden, running with her robot trainer, and advocating on behalf of the Oxford comma.