-By Rod Fuller –
As a reviewer for Fleet Auto News I get to drive a lot of different vehicles. And after a recent review a thought occurred to me – Are we too distracted by the technology in new vehicles?
It became apparent when I suddenly found myself, through an unexpected vehicle breakdown, driving a 1980’s Ford Festiva. Complete with four speed manual transmission, roll down windows and old fashion central locking – reach over and pull the button up yourself!
The Festiva was actually fun to drive. And drive it I did! No cruise control, no ABS or blind spot monitors. No lane keeping assist or automatic city stop. If you are in traffic you have to watch where you are going. Look out for who/what is around you and if someone stops suddenly in front of you, you have to use the brake yourself – do you remember, actual driving!
So I got to thinking – are we relying too much on the technology and driving aids that modern vehicles are now equipped with? Rather than concentrating on the task at hand?
We all know about the dangers of mobile phones while driving and the temptation to use it, hold it and send text messages. And we all know it’s illegal (don’t we). Why? Because it’s distracting to the driver. If you take your eye off the road, even for a second, it can lead to very dire consequences. And not just a love letter from your friendly local constable requiring you to contribute to the government’s finances.
So what about the distraction of all the driving aids and other information that is presented to the driver on the steering wheel controls, touch screen displays and dashboards?
While your watching the traffic in front you’re thinking, is the lane assist working? Is the climate control set to the right temperature? Is the entertainment system playing the right song from my iPod?
Then the blind spot monitor starts flashing in the outside mirror. The lane assist keeps flashing because you’re too close to the left side of the lane and the cruise control keeps slowing down for some reason. Three or four different things are flashing telling you that you’re not driving properly.
Before you know it you’re not looking at the most important visual display of all – the windscreen and what is in front of you! (No wonder there are so many ‘nose to tail’ accidents in the traffic).
Of course all of the new technologies have made cars safer in addition to providing extra comfort to both drivers and passengers alike. But the overriding responsibility for driving safely remains with the driver.
And despite all the driver aids the now exist, they are only there to assist, and driver cannot allow themselves to be distracted from the most important task they have – to look where they are going and drive the car!