AAA says long-term use of advanced driver assist tech makes drivers distracted

A new study conducted by AAA has found something that sounds counterintuitive. According to the study, drivers with experience using advanced driver assistance systems, like adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist, were nearly twice as likely to be distracted while using the systems than when they drove without the systems. Drivers with less experience and familiarity using the tech were less likely to drive while distracted with systems activated.AAA is warning drivers to remember that while new driver-assist tech has benefits, they have to remain active and engaged when behind the wheel for maximum safety. AAA's Dr. David Yang says that the research suggests that as drivers gain experience with assistive technology, they develop complacency when driving. Yang points out that over-reliance on the system can put drivers and others in dangerous conditions in critical moments.

AAA worked with Virginia Tech Transportation Institute to analyze videos of driving behavior for two groups of drivers. Both groups used advanced driver assistance technology. One of the groups had experience using the systems. In contrast, drivers in the other group were given a vehicle equipped with advanced driver aid systems to use during the 4-week study period and had less experience with the tech.

The scientists found that drivers who owned their vehicles had more familiarity with the assist tech and were more likely to be distracted. Those in the other group were more likely to remain attentive and engaged. Researchers at Virginia Tech theorize that drivers move through different phases when using assistance systems.

The first is the novelty phase, where they learn the tech and are less inclined to trust the systems and therefore remain engaged. Drivers eventually reach the experienced user stage, where overreliance on the systems leads them to become distracted.