Brave New World of Driving

Both cars and the challenges drivers face have changed over the years. Not only has the safety level of cars increased, but so has the number of distractions. The next time you get in the car, imagine if you had to drive without all the modern conveniences available. 

What Cars Used to Be Like

The first car with a gasoline engine came about in 1886. These cars with their open tops and minimal safety features were completely different from even the cars your parents and grandparents learned to drive. The biggest safety feature that we still use today, seat belts, wasn't around until the 1950s, and they weren't standard until 1968. Either way, these cars didn't have advanced technologies like airbags, backup cameras, blind spot detection, or electronic stability control that we rely on today.

What Cars Are Like Today

Compared to 1950, the driver of the modern car has around a 56% lower risk of fatality. These are some of the safety features that have improved that risk:

  • Airbags — Between 1987 and 2017, frontal airbags have saved an estimated 50,000 lives. They reduce the death percentage of the driver by 29% in front-end crashes. These were mandatory as of 1998.

  • Backup cameras — Required as of 2018, these cameras help prevent the injury and death of pedestrians — especially small children who may be out of sight behind a vehicle.

  • Blind spot detection — These sensors alert you if a vehicle is in your blind spot. This is especially helpful when changing lanes on a highway.

  • Driver assistance — These are a set of features that assist you in staying in your lane, like automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, and forward collision warnings. These have the chance to greatly reduce fatalities.

  • Electronic stability control — This can help your vehicle stay on the road by maintaining braking controls during a spin-out. This was in all new cars after 2011. 

  • Seat belts — In 2022, 25,420 people died in car crashes, and around 50% of them weren't wearing a seatbelt. If you buckle up and sit in the front seat of a car, you can reduce your risk of fatality by 45% and injury by 50%. 

Are These Safety Features Too Much?

The abundance of safety features does help keep drivers safe, but they may also be a distraction. All of these safety features come with displays that flash warnings and blare loud alerts which can easily distract new drivers. Aceable surveyed 601 participants in 2024 and found that:

  • 87% of parents say that the current generation of teen drivers faces different challenges than they did when they started driving.

  • 68% of parents say they are more afraid to let their teen drive than they were to start driving themselves.

  • 64% of parents say they are more worried about their teen driving than their parents were about them driving.

Parents feel like their teens are easily overwhelmed when they get behind the wheel. When parents were first driving, their biggest distraction may have been adjusting the radio. Now, smartphones, media consoles, and flashing alerts have added a whole new element of distracted driving for teens.

What Driving Used to Be Like

If you hopped in an older car and tried to drive it, you might be in for a struggle. For starters, most cars had a manual transmission, so you might not even know how to get it into gear. Then, you'd have to fight the wheel if the vehicle didn't have power steering.

You'd also be driving a lot slower. In 1901 in Connecticut, the speed limit was 15 mph on what were dirt country roads. As technology increased and highways got better, a national speed limit was set at 55 mph in 1974. It went up to 65 mph in the 1980s.

What Driving Is Like Today

Although it is easier to operate an automobile nowadays due to better technology, safety features, and the roads themselves, there are plenty of other problems. Road congestion is a primary concern, especially with teenage drivers. As more and more people are driving, the roads are more congested than ever. According to our research, this has parents worried more about their teens:

  • 76% of anxious parents cite concerns about how their teen will handle the dangers of the road.

  • 54% of anxious parents cite the lack of oversight they have when their teen is driving.

  • 52% of anxious parents cite concerns about their teen’s core driving abilities.

With more drivers on the road, the odds of getting into an accident increase. Crashes amongst teenage drivers are higher than in every other age group due to inexperience and distractions. Nowadays some states are going towards a graduated license system where teens unlock new levels of privileges the longer and safer they've been driving. 

Another concern from parents is that there is an overreliance on safety features instead of learning the fundamental driving skills themselves. An Aceable survey determined that 98% of drivers thought that safety features should only supplement driving skills, not replace them. You need to be ready in case your safety features ever malfunction.

Be Safe in This New World of Driving

Vehicles have changed in many positive ways over the decades, but you can't always rely on them to keep you safe. You should always have a strong foundation of driving knowledge and technique. One way to obtain this knowledge and skills is by taking a driver's ed course at Our online learning will teach you the rules and techniques you need to know to keep yourself safe on the road.

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