The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety released new research that finds systems designed to make motor vehicles safer and easier to drive actually put drivers at risk.

The Foundation says the technology can increase safety when used appropriately, but too many people are lulled into a false sense of security by relying on the systems, putting themselves and others in more danger.

Study examines “secondary” safety systems

During its one-year study, the Foundation looked at drivers’ habits while using two systems, both of which require motorists to keep their hands on the steering wheel and remain alert:

  • Adaptive cruise control: ACC helps maintain a safe distance between vehicles on the highway by automatically slowing down or speeding up without the driver’s actions.
  • Lane-keeping assistance: LKA helps drivers stay in their lane on the highway by gently moving the wheel if the car starts to drift.

Improvement is needed educating drivers

Researchers say their findings suggest that many drivers don’t understand how to use these partially automated safety systems and that the results highlight serious challenges the auto industry faces as it transitions from current vehicles to self-driving cars.

The AAA study found that drivers who use ACC and LKA are nearly twice as likely to be distracted than motorists who do not have the systems in their vehicles. The Foundation says drivers need to understand the features are only support systems and not rely on them when driving.