There is no doubt car technology has made a huge difference to safety, comfort and efficiency over recent years with the driverless car on the horizon. Even a fairly modestly equipped car includes the sort of safety and comfort equipment barely imaginable on cars of a decade or so ago.

There is a possible downside though – the amount of tech can actually increase the risks of driving if misused.

[easy-tweet tweet=”In-car tech can improve the on-road experience, but is it making us bad drivers?” via=”no” hashtags=”cartech “]

Sat nav

A huge advance in helping motorists find their way, ‘sat navs’ have helped road safety in many ways. There’s no more need to glance at maps, or handle cumbersome navigation books, and backseat drivers have been nullified. The screen shows at eye level and the vocal directions mean it’s easier to concentrate on the road.

There again, there are risks if insufficient care is taken in their use; the danger is in slavishly following the directions. Sometimes errors are made by the sat nav such as directing drivers the wrong way down one ways streets, saying ‘turn right’ when it’s a no right turn junction and, of course, the episodes where drivers find themselves in a field or down a narrow track.

[easy-tweet tweet=”Being a slave to your sat nav can leave you up the creek” via=”no” hashtags=”satnav, roadsafety, cartech”]

It’s important to keep a sense of awareness when using the sat nav. There can also be a tendency to lose focus on actual road safety and observation if too much attention is given to the sat nav and the screen. Driving in these cases becomes, instead, like a video game and it’s easy to lose focus of the real world dangers around.

There may even be a section in the driving test soon regarding sat nav use – it’s been piloted in Scotland – so along with preparing for the driving theory test brushing up on sat nav operation may be required. This is probably the key to making the positives outweigh the negatives. By building sat nav systems into the natural process of learning the laws of the road, learners will be able to treat them as a natural part of the in-car operation.

Anti skid, stability control and anti lock brakes

Many cars offer as a minimum anti lock brakes (ABS) which help stop brakes locking up, and there are many more aids such as ESC (Electronic Stability Control) and various anti slip and anti skid features.

It will soon be a reality that new drivers will have to train to use the technologies built into their driving experience

The problems begin when drivers are irresponsible and rely on these safety aids to get them out of trouble. If corners are taken too quickly or risks taken in wet or slippery conditions, it would be folly to rely totally on the safety kit to save the day.

These aids certainly make cars safer, especially in adverse conditions such as snow and ice, but sensible driving is still required and it’s important that drivers don’t think it’s safe to take more risks as a result.

Speed awareness

Thanks to higher levels of refinement and technical improvements to suspension, noise levels and vibration it’s easy to lose track of the speed being driven. Cars are far smoother to drive and spend time in than before, so the sensation of speed is vastly reduced. Drivers who learned the ropes in a ‘rough and ready’ old banger must adapt their skills to be able to recognise what driving at each speed ‘feels like’ or it can become easy to pick up speeding tickets or, worse, be involved in crashes.

Electric cars and hybrids

Electric cars and hybrids (when not using the engine) run close to silent, so they can be dangerous to pedestrians unable to hear that there is a car nearby. As a driver, it’s important to be aware that pedestrians and even other road users such as cyclists may not have heard you. It’s easy to forget – especially if you’ve been used to driving a car that made plenty of noise before.

New tech benefits overall

In the end, new car tech has been very positive and no doubt makes cars safer, more efficient and comfortable – but there are drawbacks. Ultimately, there is still no substitute for sensible driving practices. That’s why it is vital to ensure new drivers learn the rules of the road and build in new technology into their learning process.