What was supposed to make driving safer appears to have the opposite effect. Technologies like adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist could be giving drivers a false sense of security and causing them to reduce their concentration while driving.

That’s what the USA Today is reporting regarding the release of a new study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

Of course, the intentions were good and, when used properly, these functions do in fact make driving safer. The problem is when risk compensation kicks in and drivers drop their guard when they put too much faith into those safety systems. Risk compensation is a theory that people will adjust their behavior in response to their perceived level of risk.

For example, studies in the past have shown that drivers will take more risks when provided with additional safety measures: drivers of vehicles with anti-lock brakes tend to drive faster, follow more closely and brake later; drivers who wore seat belts were more likely to drive faster and less carefully than those who don’t. It may be that these new technologies are falling into that same issue.

“We’re definitely trying to reiterate to drivers that these systems are merely support systems and their role is to remain alert and attentive,” Bill Horrey, leader of the AAA Foundation’s Traffic Research Group and project manager on the study, told USA Today.

The study found that drivers were nearly twice as likely to engage in distracted driving when the two systems were employed than those drivers who aren’t using them. For example, the study found that simultaneously using adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist resulted in a 50% increase in the odds of someone engaging in any form of other task, and an 80% increase in engaging in some visual or manual secondary task. Speeding also appeared more prevalent when both systems were active.

That kind of defeats the purpose, right? This inattentiveness exposes bicyclists to drivers relying too heavily on technology to prevent the car from sideswiping or rear ending them. This also puts other drivers at risk from being rear ended at high speeds or being pushed off the road from a distracted driver.

As technology develops and newer safety systems are implemented, car manufacturers shouldn’t lose sight of human nature. The more technology on a dashboard and in a car can itself result to more distracted driving even if the driver isn’t on their cellphone. While these technologies are being rolled out and marketed as making the roads safe for other drivers and bicyclists and pedestrians, they could be making them even more dangerous than before.

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