As more new vehicles come equipped with technologies designed to take over some driving functions or provide assistance to human drivers, many people may assume that the roads become safer and fewer accidents may occur.

Interestingly, the opposite may be true as new research shows that human drivers may rely too much on driver assist features.

Human error linked to most traffic accidents

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the majority of motor vehicle crashes involve some form of error or poor judgement on the part of human drivers. In 2018 alone, more than 36,000 people lost their lives on American roads. In an effort to address the impact of human error, many features like forward collision warning, automatic braking and adaptive lighting tout the ability to reduce or mitigate the impact of accidents.

Study finds distraction increases with advanced safety features

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety provided a summary of a study conducted by the Virginia Technology Transportation Institute that evaluated driver behavior when using lane keeping assistance or adaptive cruise control features. The results of the study pointed to a concerning increase in the potential for distracted driving. In short, drivers were less likely to remain focused on the act of driving when they felt technology was doing the job for them.

The chance that a driver utilizing the assistance features may engage in an activity that creates a manual or visual distraction jumped by 80%. Overall distracting behavior risk increased by 50% when a driver in the study used lane keeping assist or adaptive cruise control.