Volvo's safety experts, mindful of the tide of electronic distractions worryingly available to drivers at all times, say that technology can actually help to cure some of the problems that it has created.
Life as a whole is distracting
The Swedish car maker, famed - and rightly so - for its safety innovations, has said that its research and behavioural science work suggests that when used correctly, modern technology inside the car can actively reduce distraction, boost road safety and help people to be better and more focused drivers.
"It is easy to think that phones and screens are the only scourge of the modern driver, but life as a whole is distracting," said Malin Ekholm, head of the Volvo Cars Safety Centre. "We know people do not get distracted on purpose, but it happens. You could be late for daycare and somewhat stressed. Or you get behind the wheel after a bad day at work. All this affects you as a driver."
Would a 1940s car be safer?
In one sense, turning back the clock would be good. As Volvo puts it, from a distraction point of view, a car from the 1940s is safer than a modern car as there's really only a steering wheel, gearshift, and pedals. Of course, that's not a realistic view, but the point is well made.
"The reality is that people want to engage with friends, family, work and entertainment, and everyone responds differently to distraction," said Malin Ekholm. "So we want to meet our customers where they are, not where we want them to be. That is why our focus is on using technology in the right way, so we can use it to help you stay safe behind the wheel."
In extremis, Volvo says that its active safety technology - such as autobrake and steer assist - are designed to be there to help prevent an accident, or minimise its consequences, in the event that a driver does become distracted or allows their concentrations to wander too far.
Voice control for improved safety
However, technology-based safety can mean more than just airbags, auto-brakes, and intelligent steering systems. Volvo's claim is that voice-activated controls are much safer than using buttons or navigating a touchscreen and that this is a major potential contributor to road safety.
"Being able to control key features on your Volvo by voice allows you to keep your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road," said Malin Ekholm. "Active safety systems such as City Safety, Run-off Road Mitigation and Oncoming Lane Mitigation with steer assist can act as an extra pair of eyes watching over you.
"Volvo Cars believes that distraction should also be addressed via in-car cameras and other sensors that monitor the driver. With such technologies, if a clearly distracted or intoxicated driver does not respond to warning signals and risks a serious, potentially lethal accident, the car could intervene."