Technological mod-cons can increase a driver’s sense of security which can then lead to risky behaviour, according to fleet management firm Masterlease.
But the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) feels that falling accident numbers disprove that theory.
Masterlease worries that technology-rich vehicles, although outstanding in decreasing injuries in accidents, can be criticised for giving drivers a disproportionate feeling of their own safety.
Gavin Jones, head of risk management at Masterlease, said: “Drivers count on their ABS brakes, twin front, side and curtain airbags and impact-protected doors to rescue them from their risk-taking behaviour.”
Mr Jones said that the state of mind, known as risk compensation, is when a driver accepts their given level of risk in an activity.
But if their perceived level of risk changes – for example, because of confidence in a car’s safety features – the driver’s actions can change to make the situation more dangerous again.
“Company car drivers of vehicles promoted for their safety features can feel a false sense of security and immunity to danger, but by taking risks they offset the car’s benefit and jeopardise their safety,” warned Mr Jones.
“Drivers of these vehicles need to be mindful that even though they may feel safer, the damage that they can cause in accidents is considerable and by precarious driving they put themselves and others at an increased risk of injury.”
But an SMMT spokesman said the theory that increased safety features lead to risky behaviour bordered on an urban myth.
“Maybe Masterlease are underestimating the abilities or education of the drivers out there,” he said.
“Vehicle safety has come on leaps and bounds of the past few years and that has to be a plus. Road accidents are going down, so the argument doesn’t add up.”