Does Car Technology Cause More Distracted Driving?

Written by Jeremy D. Earle, JD

April 22, 2023

Does Technology Make Cars Safer?

Is the plethora of technology found in today’s cars causing more injure than good? Is it causing distractions that result in fatal crashes? Many drivers, car accident victims, and car accident lawyers have expressed concern about this issue.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recently issued a report on a fatal accident in which a Tesla S.U.V. slammed into a concrete highway barrier at 70 mph, killing the driver. The National Transportation Safety Board blamed the fatal crash on flaws in Tesla’s Autopilot driver assistance system, as well as the driver’s distraction.

“It’s time to stop allowing drivers in partially automated cars to act as if they have driverless cars,” said NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt.

When the driver, an Apple employee, let his Tesla S.U.V. steer itself, the accident occurred. The car veered off course due to the driver-assist function, and it collided with a concrete barrier at a high rate. According to NTSB investigations, the Tesla driver was playing a video game on his mobile device when the accident happened. The NTSB chastised Apple for not having a company policy prohibiting the use of cellular devices while driving when it released its findings. Tesla was also urged to keep working on its Autopilot feature, a promising but flawed technology.

Finally, the NTSB chastised the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for failing to adequately supervise new driver-assist technologies.

Now is the time to address safety concerns. We can’t afford any more tragedies.


According to the NHTSA, distracted driving is defined as any activity that takes a driver’s attention away from the task of driving.

Distracted driving claims the lives of over 2,500 people each year, making it a major concern on America’s highways.

There are three types of driver distractions.


Manual distractions occur when a driver’s hands are taken off the steering wheel. Eating, drinking, applying makeup, adjusting your car controls, stereo, or G.P.S. are all examples of manual driving distractions. Texting is a manual distraction as well.


Visual distractions cause a driver’s attention to diver from the road. Looking for something you dropped on the floor, watching your children fight in the back seat, rubber-necking while driving past an accident, or texting are all examples of visual distractions.


These occur when your mind is not focused on driving. Sure, we all “zone out” or daydream from time to time, but doing so while driving may be dangerous. You can also be cognitively distracted by arguing with someone on the phone or in the car with you or by coming up with a clever text response, among other things.

Texting is the biggest offender since it combines all three distractions into one. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that in the 5 seconds it takes to send or receive a text while driving at 55 mph, you would drive the length of a football field while not watching the road, not properly placing your hands on the steering wheel, and not paying full attention to the task of driving.


Technology companies and automakers are well aware of the dangers of technology while driving. They’ve tried to eliminate some of these distractions for drivers by providing voice- activated apps and auto features. This eliminates the need for the driver to press buttons on their dashboard or their phones while driving.

These solutions, however, do not always work as intended, which can exacerbate distractions!

Here are several technology improvements that may increase the number of distractions faced by drivers.

Autopilot functions, such as the one that contributed to the Tesla accident, are designed to assist the driver in certain situations by steering and stopping. However, autopilot technology is not yet advanced enough to completely replace driving. A lady was murdered by a “self-driving” Uber S.U.V. in Tempe, Arizona, when the car failed to detect people crossing the street outside of a crosswalk.

The National Transportation Safety Board held Uber partially to blame for not having the required safety division or management to handle a self-driving car program. Still, the software that failed to recognize pedestrians on the highway was the principal cause of the tragedy. The car’s software detected the woman in the road more than 5 seconds before impact but did nothing to prevent her from being struck at 40 mph.

Use of a hands-free cell phone. When using a speakerphone, drivers can keep their hands on the wheel while talking on the phone. Many states have passed laws requiring drivers to use their phones only in hands-free mode while driving.

Adult drivers in Colorado, for example, are no longer permitted to use their phones while driving. They are only allowed to swipe or press a single button on their phone with their hands. Voice activation is required for texts and outgoing calls. However, even using a phone in voice mode causes a distraction from the task of driving a car.

Drivers lose track of whether the car in front of them is about to turn or if a traffic light has turned red from green. “Hands-free” can also mean “cognitively distracted.” In reality, studies show that when compared to a non-conversing driver, a motorist engaged in conversation scans the road differently and does not glance in the back or side-view mirrors as much.

Information and entertainment systems. These are the large screens found in the dash of newer cars that offer a variety of features such as phone call technology, G.P.S., temperature gauges for heated seats, music libraries, and even the ability to watch movies while driving.

According to a Popular Mechanics op-ed, the issue with these displays is that they lack knobs that can be used to modify things in the car without looking. On the other hand, new screen-based systems require drivers to take their eyes off the road and their hands off the steering wheel.

While many of these systems include hands-free voice activation, a recent study found that when participants were asked to complete various tasks on infotainment systems with voice activation, they found the tasks to be moderate to highly distract in terms of cognition.


“With increased automation comes increased responsibility,” said M.I.T.’s Dr. Bryan Reimer in a widely viewed TEDx Talk.

While many people anticipate the day when autonomous cars allow us to work while commuting in our cars, we have not yet arrived at that point. We get a little closer with each new technological advancement. However, until true automation is achieved, drivers must remain fully engaged in the manual, visual, and cognitive driving tasks to keep themselves and others safe.

There’s no avoiding it: driving is a task that necessitates your undivided attention. Distractions have negative implications.

Additionally, engineers have recently concentrated their efforts on developing technology to protect us from technological distractions. It’s enough to make your head spin!

Here are some of the suggestions they’ve made:

Technology that prevents cell phones from being used. It would be great if we all had the discipline to turn off or put our phones in airplane mode while driving. However, companies have developed apps that prevent drivers from making or receiving calls or texts while driving because this isn’t happening.

These apps, most commonly used by employers or parents of teen drivers, have features that can track speed, detect sudden stops, block use of a car stereo, and even send text or email alerts to parents and bosses to let them know when something is wrong. If you’re worried about not being able to use your phone in an emergency, don’t be: most of these apps include a 911 override, and some even allow you to create a small list of people whose calls will go through while the app is active.

Safety features that enable the car to take over operations temporarily if the driver is distracted by anything else (such as a touchscreen infotainment system) (such as a touchscreen infotainment system). Forward-collision alerts, for example, give a visual or audio notice if the car is likely to collide with anything.

This feature has been shown to prevent rear-end collisions by about 27%. Another safety feature is automatic emergency braking, which applies the brakes automatically if the car detects that a collision is imminent. The driver has been too slow to react to a hazard.

A lane departure warning emits a visual or audible alert when a car passes over centerlines without the driver engaging a turn signal. Finally, if a car starts to drift out of its travel lane, lane-keeping assist takes over braking and/or steering.

While we haven’t yet reached the finish line to develop a truly self-driving car, many companies have entered the race, both well-known and unknown.

These are a few of the businesses:

Amazon has developed an autonomous delivery robot and patented autonomous lane- switching technology, with plans to put 100,000 electric delivery cars on the road by 2030. A self-driving startup founded by Google and Tesla veterans has also received funding from the company.

Cisco has worked hard on the data layer required for self-driving and smart car technology.

In California, Apple has 70 self-driving cars on the road. In what was initially described as a restructuring effort, the company laid off over 200 employees from its self-driving car program in 2019. After that, the company bought a self-driving startup and developed electric van prototypes.

Ford has announced that self-driving cars will be available soon. These “highly autonomous” cars will be deployed in geofenced areas such as Austin, Colorado.

In Boston, Las Vegas, Pittsburgh, and Singapore, Aptiv has completed 100,000 self-driving taxi rides.

Audi debuted the A8, marking the company’s first foray into hands-free driving technology. The company plans to invest $16 billion in self-driving and environmentally friendly technology in the coming years.

Companies developing self-driving cars can use Microsoft’s Azure cloud services.

Toyota is developing “guardian angel” technology, in which self-driving features only intervene when the driver is about to make a mistake.


Meanwhile, as new technologies become available, many decades-old distractions will result in serious injuries. If you were injured in a car accident caused by a distracted driver, you might be entitled to substantial compensation from the parties responsible for the collision. To learn more, speak with a knowledgeable car accident injury lawyer today.

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