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Automatic safety systems linked to distraction

On Behalf of | Feb 23, 2021 | Product Liability

Drivers in Ohio and around the country are more likely to become distracted and engage in behavior that could lead to accidents when their cars feature semiautonomous safety systems like adaptive cruise control (ACC) and lane-centering technology. This was the conclusion that researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reached after observing 20 drivers for a month.


The researchers observed the volunteers as they drove Land Rover vehicles equipped with ACC and Volvos equipped with ACC and lane-centering technology. Over the course of 30 days, the drivers became far more likely to take their eyes off the road and their hands off the steering wheel. At the end of the study, they showed signs of distraction about twice as often and were 12 times more likely to use their hands for tasks other than steering. This concerned the researchers because features like ACC and lane-centering systems do not replace drivers and have difficulty coping with many common road hazards.

False sense of security

The researchers determined that semiautonomous safety systems give drivers a false sense of security. This is particularly worrying as other studies have shown that these features do not always work in real-world situations. When the American Automobile Association tested automatic emergency braking systems, vehicles equipped with the technology failed to identify a child running into the road 89% of the time. The nonprofit organization concluded that automatic braking systems offer limited benefits in daylight and are completely ineffective in the dark.

Electronic evidence of distraction

The kind of technology evaluated in these studies may provide motor vehicle accident victims with evidence that could be used to establish negligence in personal injury lawsuits. When pursuing these cases, experienced attorneys may seek to obtain cellphone records and the data that many modern vehicles store on black box-type devices. This electronic evidence could show that drivers did not apply their brakes before an accident or were using an electronic device when they crashed.