Cars are getting safer; roads are getting more dangerous: a curious dichotomy of modern driving

Thanks to innovative automotive technology, cutting-edge engineering, research and vehicle testing, cars these days are safer than they’ve ever been. New-generation automobiles are equipped with a variety of advanced features such as sensors, cameras, cruise control, parking assistance, and touch-screen controls that are meant to provide comfort, convenience and enhanced safety for drivers and passengers.

So, if carmakers are doing everything they can to make vehicles smarter, safer, and easier to drive, why are road traffic fatality rates still so high? Where does the source of the problem truly lie? One would expect road safety to improve drastically following all the progress that’s been made in the automotive industry over the years, and yet the reality couldn’t be more different.

With over 1.19 million people losing their lives on roads all across the world every year, car crashes remain the leading cause of death for children and young adults aged 5–29 years, and the leading cause of preventable death worldwide. Now that traffic levels are back to pre-pandemic levels, there’s been a notable increase in road crashes and fatalities, and figures are expected to keep surging. It’s a hard to reconcile paradox until you start digging deeper and uncover the real causes of the phenomenon.

The downside of tech advances

We’ve already established that technology isn’t at fault for the rising rate of car crash fatalities. HGV Training Cars have evolved a lot over the past decades, and their safety level is incomparable to what the first models offered. But in a way, tech innovations are still a part of the problem.

All the modern features that cars are equipped with are making drivers pay less attention while on the road. People rely too much on vehicles’ capabilities and not enough on their own driving skills, without realising that these systems and devices are meant to assist humans not replace their attention.

Even if a vehicle is packed with motion sensors and cameras that eliminate blind spots and assist with parking, navigating and handling, this doesn’t relieve one of the responsibility of focusing on driving. We’ve gotten lazy behind the wheel and expect cars to do all the heavy lifting, but we’re still a long way from self-driving automobiles that can operate independently.

This links directly to the issue of distracted driving. In-car technology is not only giving drivers a free pass to become more absent-minded and engage in other activities but it also represents a distraction in itself. With cars being loaded with digital interfaces, infotainment systems, buttons, controls, and all sorts of bells and whistles, the information overload can have a significant detrimental effect on drivers’ concentration.

And let’s not forget that apart from in-car technology, we also have smartphones, tablets, and other electronic devices competing for our attention. Although all countries have strict laws in place prohibiting the use of smart devices while driving, this has become common practice in recent years.

A moment of inattention while fiddling with the phone can lead to disastrous consequences. As experts at explain, those who get injured in a road traffic accident due to another party’s negligent driving can claim compensation for the damages they’ve suffered, but all the money in the world can’t make up for the trauma of being involved in a car crash.

So, should we blame tech developers and car manufacturers for what’s happening on the world’s roads? Absolutely not. People are simply using technology the wrong way. Manufacturers can fit a car with all the desirable safety features and controls with the purpose of protecting consumers, but they can’t force anyone to use them correctly. And you know what they say: the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Reckless driving

Although the US is known as the homeland of massive SUVs and large pick-up trucks, it appears that the rest of the world is also shifting towards larger vehicles, as proven by the increasing demand for these types of vehicles. In 2021, SUVs accounted for approximately 44% of all new car sales in Europe and the cars people drive are getting heavier in almost every country on the Old Continent.

For example, in Austria, the average vehicle has gotten one-third heavier between 2001 and 2020, while in the UK, Spain and Finland, the average car weight has increased by 25%. This trend is consistent and demonstrates that people prefer big and sturdy cars over sedans. While larger and heavier cars are theoretically safer, they also have bigger blind spots and not even the smartest cameras can eliminate them completely. This represents a hazard, especially for pedestrians, cyclists or scooter riders who are the most vulnerable road users.

Besides, the problem is not just the size of modern cars, but also how they’re maneuvered. People like big cars and they also like to drive them fast. It’s as if when they get behind the wheel of a mammoth SUV, they instantly feel the need to push the gas pedal all the way down and ignore all safety precautions.

It’s not uncommon for drivers to go over the legal speed limit with surprising ease, acting like nothing could possibly go wrong. These reckless individuals don’t realise that driving a big car with smart safety features and a heavy-duty engine does not guarantee full protection. The risk of accidents increases considerably when one ignores the hazards, despite the vehicles’ build and performance.

Final thoughts

It seems like the explanation for the rising rate of fatal car accidents isn’t so complicated after all. The cars aren’t the problem, but the people driving them. Cars will continue to improve, with new technologies and innovations being implemented, but the human factor also needs to improve if we want roads to become a safer place for all traffic participants.

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I am Daniel Owner and CEO of &

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