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Are smarter cars creating passive drivers?

Smart-carIt seems like every year vehicles roll out with new features promising a safer ride for you and your passengers. What started with airbags and anti-lock brakes has turned into aids that buzz and beep to alert you to dangers.

Of course, the intent is that with enough reminders about your surroundings, you can take more precautions to prevent an accident. With more and more features, however, drivers may be paying less attention to the road.

Before you opt for the car with the most features, here's what you may want to consider.

Some aids have a steep learning curve

More vehicles are coming out with features like head-up displays, back-up cameras and lane assist. At any given time, your steering wheel might vibrate, there could be lights flashing on your dashboard all in addition to the real cars all around you on the road.

If you opt for a vehicle with a long list of safety features, make sure you read the owner's manual, so you understand how they are supposed to work and what actions you need to take. Also, take the time to get used to them somewhere safe before you head out into rush hour.

Drivers may rely too heavily on features

For now, no amount of safety features can replace an attentive, experienced driver. Even self-driving cars are getting press for accidents.

In your vehicle, remember to use all the tools available to make safe choices behind the wheel. While the gadgets in your car may help, make sure to confirm with your eyes as much as possible.

As you drive down the road, be aware that other drivers may rely more on their vehicle's features than their skills, especially if they have not had much experience behind the wheel. Watch for drivers who are not paying attention to the road around them.

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