How Technology is Changing the Way We Drive: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Can you remember a time when only some lucky families had a car phone? A time when your vehicle’s only entertainment option was a tape deck? And kids had to suffer through long car rides without a tablet to watch TV shows and movies? If you can, you’ve seen a tectonic shift in technology over your lifetime. Unfortunately, not all changes have been for the better. Read on to learn about the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to how technology is affecting the way you drive.

The Good: Technology is helping us change our driving habits for the better.

Technology can help track and regulate many areas of your life, like fitness apps that count your steps each day, meditation apps that help manage your stress, and banking apps that track your spending.

Now, you can apply the same principles to your driving habits with a Usage-Based Insurance (UBI) plan that uses a telematics device installed on your car to track your driving behaviour, such as acceleration, speeding, braking, time and distance driven. This information is sent to your car insurance provider and can help them better assess your risk as a driver.

So why would you agree to share all this personal data? Well, for starters, one insurer reports that 70 percent of drivers with this type of plan earn some kind of discount because their data demonstrates safe driving habits. As an added benefit, though, studies have shown that since drivers with these plans are receiving real-time feedback on their behaviour behind the wheel, most participants improve their habits over time. Finally, insurers are not allowed to raise your premium or deny you coverage based on the information they collect – so there is more to gain than to lose if you agree to share your data.

The Bad: We’re relying too much on technology – and not enough on our own judgement.

The cars we’re driving are smarter than ever; blind-spot detectors can let you know when it’s safe to change lanes; automatic braking can allow your vehicle to take action when an imminent collision is detected; and rearview cameras can making backing up easier and safer. So, shouldn’t this mean that we’re safer than ever?

Unfortunately, it seems the opposite is true: drivers are exhibiting lazier habits and riskier behaviour because of an over-reliance on technology. For example, one study has shown that drivers’ using blind-spot detection systems were less likely to look over their shoulders and check their blind spot when changing lanes. In another study, drivers who were aware that they had an anti-lock brake system engaged in riskier behaviour that included driving faster, following closer and braking later.

The Ugly: We’re paying more attention to our phones than to the road.

According to the Ontario Provincial Police, distracted driving is the deadliest driving behaviour on Ontario roads. Their statistics show that inattentive drivers caused 83 road fatalities in 2017, surpassing deaths related to speeding (75), alcohol and drug use (46) and lack of seat belt use (49). The RCMP considers distracted driving as a form of impaired driving, as your judgement behind the wheel is compromised if you’re not fully focused on the road.

There are many things that can distract you as a driver: talking on the phone, listening to loud music, applying your make-up, and eating and drinking are some obvious culprits. But the one behaviour that seems to be causing the distracted driving epidemic is texting and driving, something 83 percent of respondents to a Canadian Automobile Association survey said was a bigger problem now than it was three years ago. Unfortunately, the large number of accidents due to distracted driving proves that people are engaging in this risky behaviour even though they understand the danger.

While there are lots of technological advancements that are making driving more safe and enjoyable, it’s clear that there are just as many – if not more – risks that come with those benefits. It’s unlikely that we’ll be returning to a time of car phones and tape decks, so it will be up to car manufacturers, governments and drivers to find a better way to integrate technology into our driving lives.

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How Technology is Changing the Way We Drive: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly