Driving Instruction

Driver Safety Technology vs. Defensive Driving

June 29, 2021

Driver Safety Technology vs. Defensive Driving

As a 58-year-old woman, I’m painfully aware of my stereotypical suspicion of new technology and preference for the older ways.  Just yesterday as I was tacking up a map on our driving school wall, I asked our sales associate, “Don’t you just love maps!” He looked at me blankly (he is 26 years old) and tried to figure out the correct answer to this very strange question. The truth was that he’d hardly ever looked at one!

But truly, there are some concerns with the new auto safety technologies from an instructional perspective, and there is no substitute for learning good old fashioned habits of defensive driving!

Let’s begin with the most infamous new technology that driving instructors love to hate: back-up cameras.  Do you know how many accidents and near misses we see because of these nefarious devices? When I teach new drivers how to back out of a parking space safely, I emphasize checking in the directions that cars may come from as we back out. But back-up cameras give the illusion that you can see the full scope of what is behind you from both sides. This really encourages new drivers to back out without first looking at approaching traffic.

False security is a major theme when talking about the dangers of so-called “driver safety technologies.”  If teen drivers rely on technology instead of developing habits of safety, then they will be less safe as a result of the technology.

Blind Spot Monitors.  At Colonial Driving School we teach our students to monitor mirrors continually (every 3 seconds).  That way they are always aware of who is around them as they drive. There is a special mirror setting that we teach that all but eliminates blind spots.  On top of that, we drill teen drivers in the skill of making a quick head check into their blind spot before changing lanes. All of this should be standard for drivers who are alert and in control of their vehicles.  If drivers do all this, they don’t really need a beep to tell them they are about to run someone off the road. I’m just worried about what will happen in the instant after the beep tells the new driver that he is changing lanes into someone - will he be able to correct safely? Or will he over correct and run out of his lane to the other side?  

If a GPS fails, a person is lost, not dead (assuming he doesn’t have a map in the glove box, and the skill to be able to read it!).  If a Blind Spot Monitor, or an Automatic Braking device, or a Self Driving feature fails, then it seems to me that the consequences of not knowing how to drive are more serious.  

When I was a kid, they didn’t let us have calculators until we had mastered computation.  They correctly predicted that we would never learn to do math if they gave us calculators too early.  It is very important that parents and driving teachers realize the danger that over-dependence on safety technology poses to new drivers.  The best money you will ever spend will be on defensive driving lessons for your teen.