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In-car technologies can reduce risk of Boston car accident; but no match for attentive driver

Vibrating car seats could soon warn drivers of an impending Massachusetts car accident.

MSNBC reports the seats are the latest safety feature that could begin appearing in new cars. Recent years have seen a host of new safety features, including curtain airbags, backup warning sensors and rearview cameras. While our Boston accident lawyers applaud the focus on safety, we have concerns about the extent to which such systems take the focus on safety out of the hands of drivers. For instance, drivers in cars with backup sensors are at higher risk for an accident when driving a car not equipped with the sensors. Their reliance upon a vehicle’s safety features has reduced their own awareness.

The new seats will alert drivers to cars in a vehicle’s blind spot or other hard-to-see spots around the rear of a vehicle. After wearing a seat belt, situational awareness remains the second most important safe driving virtue. However, as motorists zone out on the road, checking a car’s blind spot becomes the first safe-driving habit to go, MSNBC reports.

The vibrating, or “touch” system, has advantages over video or audio warning systems, according to the seat’s inventor, John Morrell of Yale University. Existing audio and visual warning systems just add to driver distraction while a touch cue can transmit location of the danger without requiring a driver to turn their head.

The seat’s vibration corresponds to the area of the car where the danger arises, so that a car pulling along the rear-right side will trigger sensors in the lower right seat back.

No question the increased safety of modern vehicles has helped reduce the number of serious and fatal car accidents. Fatal accidents have declined nationwide, from 41,501 in 1998 to 37,261 in 2008, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

To the extent that motorists use such safety systems to augment their awareness, we think they are welcome improvements. It’s when they become a crutch for inattention that a motorist could face the increased risk of being involved in a serious or fatal car accident.

If you or a loved one has been injured or killed in a Boston car accident, contact Massachusetts Injury Attorney Jeffrey S. Glassman for a free and confidential appointment to discuss your rights. Call 877-617-5333.