Connected Cars Make Drivers Feel Safer, but More Distracted

Even if truly self-driving cars were available now, most drivers aren’t ready to give up the wheel, according to an Esurance online survey of 1,057 vehicle owners in the US.

The report, released February 14, found only 17% of surveyed drivers would sacrifice driving control to safely multi-task on the road.

While nearly half — 46% — of drivers with in-car tech features say it helps their driving, 10% believe the opposite.

In fact, a quarter of respondents who sought out tech in their new vehicles reported that they have since deactivated at least one feature, and potentially helpful features like GPS navigation systems were a leading cause of driver distraction.

In an indicator that advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) might be proving more distracting than helpful, drivers with in-car tech seemed to be slightly more distracted than those without it.

The survey found 29% of drivers admit that the warning sounds themselves — such as when the car drifts into another lane — can be distracting.

The survey also indicated that while most drivers recognize that using technology such as smartphones and GPS is distracting behind the wheel, they’re willing to do it anyway. This is despite the admission by 10% of respondents that they have personally experienced a close call or accident caused by their own distracted driving.

“Despite the fact that fatalities related to distracted driving are on the rise, this survey tells us that drivers are willing to take the risk and continue to give into the lure of using technology while driving,” Stephanie Braun, director of connected cars at Esurance, said in a statement.

Nearly six in ten — 58% — of drivers surveyed admitted to some level of distracted driving, whether that’s texting or navigating while driving, with basic tech like mobile devices as the leading cause of their distraction.

Tech distractions were followed by distractions from other drivers — 30% — and personal distractions like interacting with other passengers and eating — 20%.

The vast majority — 91% — of surveyed drivers said that they believe texting while driving is distracting, though more than half of those surveyed said they do it anyway.

“We’re seeing more automakers try to address the issue of distracted driving through semi-autonomous features, but we’re also mindful of the fact that some of these features could distract drivers even more and often give drivers a false sense of security,” Braun added in the statement.

Nearly a third — 30% — of respondents said they know someone who has experienced a distracted driving accident or close call.

The survey also found 30% of drivers admitted to giving in to distractions when they’re too busy or are multi-tasking, and a quarter of respondents said they would pick up their phone simply because they’re bored while driving.

The survey categorized drivers with car tech as owners of vehicles with warning systems such as a blind spot monitor, lane departure warning, collision warning or driver override features like lane keep, automatic emergency braking or adaptive cruise control.

In addition, 15 interviews were conducted in December with owners of high-tech vehicles.

— Nathan Eddy is a filmmaker and freelance journalist based in Berlin. Follow him on Twitter @dropdeaded209_LR.

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