While there's no question that using a cell phone to text, talk or surf the web while driving is a dangerous practice that can lead to accidents, technology as a whole has actually had a positive impact in reducing accidents on the road. According to a recent study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, traffic accidents and fatality rates have declined significantly in recent years -- especially among older drivers, where fatal crashes have declined by 42 percent from 1997 to 2012. So what, specifically, is driving this decline and improving driving efficiency? Three areas of technology that are making people better drivers are driving simulators, apps and automated features.
Driving Without the Risk
Driving simulators have been around for a couple of decades and are becoming much more helpful to drivers as technology advances. Simulators are beneficial because they let you react and learn how to handle a vehicle in dangerous driving situations without risking your life. You can buy a wheel, pedals and the software to practice at home, or you can find a place that has driving simulators. Virtual driving simulations can be especially beneficial for beginners who are learning how to drive. According to Driving-Tests.org, 72 percent of people fail their DMV test on their first attempt, so along with taking written practice tests, practicing on a simulator can help with the driving portion of the test.
Once Again, Apps Are the Answer
Starting in 1996, every car sold in America has to have on-board diagnostics — an electronic system that mechanics can use to see what's going on with your car. With certain apps, though, the information previously available only to those with expensive diagnostic equipment is now available to you. All you have to do is buy a wireless on-board diagnostics data transmitter and download the app -- then you're good to go. According to Popular Mechanics, an app called "Rev" is like having an actual driving instructor, since it can give you feedback on how efficiently you're driving on a challenging road. There are also apps that can teach you how to get better fuel efficiency as you drive and will tell you if there are any problems with your engine or other vehicle systems. One app worth mentioning is "Torque," which has diagnostic capabilities, can reset fault codes even also uses Google Earth to record zero-to-60 times.
Saving You From Yourself
From autonomous braking and blind-spot monitoring to rearview cameras and adaptive headlights, the high-tech safety features found on new cars are making driving safer. Automated features are taking human error out of the equation and reducing accidents. As these systems get more advanced, we will eventually have cars that capable of driving themselves. In fact, Google already uses fully automated cars that they say are much more efficient and safer than human-driven automobiles. While some may find it difficult to trust a robot to get them to their destination safely, there's no doubt that automated cars can provide a host of benefits including improved safety and better efficiency.