We hear nearly every day about some new technology that’s going to be coming to vehicles within the next few years. When people aren’t talking about driverless cars or electric technology, they are discussing windshield HUDs, touchscreens, and sensors that can detect surrounding objects. But the big question still remains: Is any of this technology actually making us safer? Doesn’t putting even more technology into cars make drivers more careless, less accountable, and more likely to get into wrecks?

The answer, for now, is usually “We don’t know.” Different people have different reactions to using technology in cars: Maybe a touchscreen with iPhone apps up on the dashboard will be useful for some, while distracting for others. Maybe some drivers will depend too much on sensors and cams for parking, while others ignore them completely. That’s why auto smart devices are currently being tested in real-world environments to understand how people react to them. In New York, for example, sensors that warn drivers of upcoming threats are being tested in a $20 million program to see how they work on the streets of the city – and if they are actually making a difference.

Tech Benefits: The Drivers with the Real Advantage

Thus far, the studies have turned up some very interesting results when it comes to drivers, especially drivers of different generations. It turns out that instead of making experienced drivers lazy, new technology can help make people safer…especially when it comes to older drivers.

You see, while elderly drivers may not care much for windshield screens, digital gauges, and car apps that connect with your phone, they can use the largely automatic sensors and warning systems found in newer models. These systems of sensors focus on collision warnings to warn drivers and in many cases automatically activate the brakes. They provide parking assistance with rear-view cams, or give cross-traffic warnings when backing out of a particularly difficult parking spot. Some even take over steering briefly to help with trickier parking jobs. And let’s not forget about fully integrated navigation assistance with turn-by-turn directions.

You may recognize that this car tech is targeting exactly the problems that drivers face on the road as they age and begin losing some of their skills, as well as their sense of direction. According to the AAA, studies have shown that these technologies can help shore up certain shortcomings that senior citizens face, allowing them to drive more safely and keep their licenses longer. When you consider that the loss of a license is directly linked to depression and expensive long-term care for senior citizens, this becomes a very big deal.

The Future of Driver Education: A Lot of Work Ahead

We’ve looked at one instance where the swarm of new auto technology has the potential to increase the safety and reliability of drivers on the road. But there is still much left to learn. Remember, older drivers have decades of experiencing driving – new technology, however useful, probably won’t make them change their habits. But how will this same technology affect new drivers and teenagers learning the basics? When they rely on the latest automatic systems and sensors, will they miss valuable independent driving skills? As with all new technology, it’s difficult to say at such early stages.

Fortunately, not everything is a loaded question: Some technological improvements are without a doubt brilliant and positive moves for general road safety. In addition to keep elderly drivers out of accidents and on the road for longer periods of time, new car technology is changing the way that cars are designed and tested. All those sensors that protect cars out on the streets are just as useful when it comes to car safety tests and gathering valuable data for future production. With a little luck, all tech advancements will prove so helpful in the future.

The next several years – and likely the years following the commercial entrance of driverless cars as well – are going to be very important to the auto legislation and traffic schools in the United States. Online traffic school courses in particular are well-placed to grow and adapt to rapid changes, providing new information and methods as quickly as possible. For example, if you’ve received a moving traffic violation or want to earn a discount on your car insurance, consider today’s online traffic school and defensive driving options. If you recently got a traffic ticket, your local traffic court may allow you to complete classes to dismiss the citation, restore points, and other benefits.

Online traffic school courses also have advantages when it comes to soon-to-be tricky auto insurance providers: Attending an online traffic school can often qualify you for a discount on your insurance rates, since insurers like to see voluntary training. Keep this in mind, drivers – education on the latest trends is about to become much more important.