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Study links automatic car safety systems to distracted driving

Many of the new cars on sale in West Virginia and around the country are packed with technology that is designed to help their drivers to avoid accidents. However, features like lane assist and adaptive cruise control could actually be making driving on the nation's roads more dangerous, according to a recent American Automobile Association study. The nonprofit organization's Foundation for Traffic Safety watched videos to see how semiautonomous safety systems were used in cars, including the Jeep Cherokee, Honda Accord and Tesla Model S, and they discovered that drivers who engaged the features were almost twice as likely to become distracted.

Adaptive cruise control uses radar to detect other vehicles and automatically adjusts speeds to maintain a safe distance. Lane departure systems apply steering input to prevent vehicles from straying onto the shoulder or into an adjacent lane. The problem is that drivers overestimate the capability of these safety systems and put too much faith in them.

This confusion may be being caused in part by commercials that show automatic systems preventing accidents by detecting hazards of which drivers were unaware. The researchers who conducted the study say automobile manufacturers should do more to ensure that their customers understand the limitations of semiautonomous safety systems like adaptive cruise control and lane departure.

Road users who sustain injuries, loss or damage in motor vehicle accidents caused by negligent driving may seek compensation by filing lawsuits. Experienced personal injury attorneys may gather evidence of negligence by obtaining the data recorded and stored by systems like lane departure and adaptive cruise control. This information, which is stored in black box-type devices under the hood, could reveal how fast vehicles were traveling when the accidents occurred and whether their drivers were paying attention at the time.

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