Are we driving dumb and dumber in smarter cars? Duh-huh!

Remember when cars were dumb and drivers smarter?

Oh, for the days of manual windows and door locks and 8-track tape cartridges and actually having to press the gas pedal and brake to control the motion of one’s car.

Luddites, we?

Not hardly. We like Bluetooth as much as anyone.

But according to a new online survey of more than 1,000 licensed drivers ages 18 and older nationwide (the survey was not state specific), we are driving dumber in smarter cars that are equipped with driver assistance features such as Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) and Lane Keeping Assist (LKA).

“Drivers with advanced safety tech in their vehicles are taking more risks,” said State Farm, based on the results of its March-April 2019 survey.

These risks include the obvious distractions: texting while driving — which, on July 1, became a primary offense in Florida — or using their cellphones to interact with apps. People are even video chatting more or tapping out phone numbers manually.

Survey results

“Americans who drive vehicles equipped with ACC or LKA ... admit to using their smart phones while driving at significantly higher rates than those without the latest tech,” State Farm’s survey said.

The results:

Read or sent messages while driving: 62% of people with Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) or Lane Keeping Assist (LKA), compared to 49% and 51% without those features.

Interacting with cellphone apps, which can include updating Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media apps: 56% with ACC and 54% with LKA versus 42% without ACC and 44% without LKA.

Holding a phone while talking in the car: 60% with ACC and 63% with LKA compared to 50% without ACC and 51% without LKA.

Manually entering a phone number: 52% with ACC and 56% with LKA compared to 38% without either of these smart features.

Using video chat on the cell phone: 39% with ACC and 42% with LKA versus 19% without ACC and 20% without LKA.

What the numbers say

Distracted driving killed 3,166 people in 2017 alone, according to the most current numbers from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Of these fatalities, 434 were caused by cellphone distractions, the U.S. Department of Transporation said.

According to the State Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, there were almost 50,000 crashes involving distracted driving in Florida, in 2016. Of these, more than 3,500 of these crashes led to serious injuries and 233 were fatal.

And then there’s Florida

Florida was the second-worst in distracted drivers in a state-by-state survey by EverQuote in 2017, the Miami Herald reported. At No. 49, Florida was ahead of just Louisiana in that regard, the analysis found. A depressing 92% of U.S. drivers with cellphones used them while moving in a car, according to that analysis.

“Innovations such as Adaptive Cruise Control and Lane Keeping Assist are designed to make our roadways safer,” said Laurel Straub, State Farm’s assistant vice president in the Enterprise Research department. “These systems are meant to assist drivers, not replace them.”

If one-fifth of responding drivers are already video chatting on their phones can there be any hope? Then factor in confusing South Florida roadways that are under constant construction — or as Miami.Com put it this week: “Ridiculous traffic decisions are a way of life in Miami, where powerful tsunamis of stupid threaten our very existence on a daily basis.”

Don’t get your hopes up.

“Half of all respondents also said they would be willing to take their eyes off the road for less than five seconds to focus on another task. All while driving on an open highway at 65 mph,” Straub said on the survey. “At that speed, you can drive the length of a football field in 3.2 seconds. Anything can happen in 100 yards.”

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Miami Herald Real Time/Breaking News reporter Howard Cohen, a 2017 Media Excellence Awards winner, has covered pop music, theater, health and fitness, obituaries, municipal government and general assignment. He started his career in the Features department at the Miami Herald in 1991.
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