AAA Study Shows Drivers Rely Too Much on New Safety Technologies

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Our cars come with an ever-increasing number of new technologies designed to keep us safe. Even on the most inexpensive cars in the most basic trims, there are features that were once reserved only for luxury vehicles as expensive options. The trickle-down of this technology to the broader car market is a good thing, but it turns out not everyone is using it right.

A recent AAA study took a look at owners of 2016 and 2017 model year vehicles with specific safety technologies. These included forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and adaptive cruise control.

This technology only works if people are willing to use it and if they use it correctly. It takes time to trust that all the beeps and vibrations and lights are trying to help you. The good news is two in three of those surveyed trust this new technology. Three in four respondents found it useful and seven out of ten want it on their next car and would recommend it to others.

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The bad news is not everyone fully understands the limitations of the technologies in today’s cars. Only 21 percent were aware that blind spot monitoring systems cannot detect vehicles passing at very high speeds and 33 percent didn’t know automatic emergency braking uses cameras or sensors that won’t work if they’re blocked.

Hand-in-hand with not understanding how it works is using it wrong. For example, 29 percent of those surveyed said they do other things with adaptive cruise control engaged. Another 30 percent don’t bother visually checking the lanes and rely solely on blind spot monitoring systems. Twenty-five percent follow a similar pattern and do no visual check backing up because they expect rear cross-traffic alert to do the whole job.

There’s an opportunity to educate people here, but how to do it is unclear. The obvious solution is for dealerships to provide extra information at the time of purchase, but that won’t work. No one wants to spend one second longer than needed in the dealership. Surveys show they don’t even want to wait around to have their infotainment systems explained, so what chance is there those same people will take the time to better understand safety technology?

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Despite people not fully understanding exactly how these technologies work, they still save lives and prevent accidents. AAA also determined these systems can prevent more than 2.7 million crashes, 1.1 million injuries, and nearly 9,500 deaths each year.

If you’re unsure of how the safety technology in your car works, then break out that manual and read up. You can also stop by the dealership and ask for help and you should feel free to ask plenty of questions the next time you buy a new car.

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Nicole Wakelin

Nicole Wakelin

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