Modern Safety Features In Cars Aren’t As Safe As We Think They Are

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety researched people instead of equipment, and found that most of us aren’t using car safety features correctly.

By on September 27, 2018
(Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

New cars – we all love the smell, and we love the “feeling” of sliding into the seat of a new car, whether it’s a Prius or a Ferrari. Having a new car just makes us feel good, you know? New also means a ton of new safety features. Backup cameras, blind-spot monitors, automatic cruise control, and a bunch of other gizmos.

Are these features really safe? Do they make cars safer, or are they just making drivers more negligent? The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety decided to do some research. They asked some questions to drivers about various new modern safety tech. The results were – I don’t want to say surprising because I sort of suspected this, but “concerning” is probably a good word. Long version short, a lot of people seem to think modern features are replacements for driving. Blind-spot monitoring, auto-braking, and adaptive cruise control aren’t miracle workers.

Let’s start with blind-spot monitoring systems. About 80% of us out there driving around don’t totally understand the “limitations” of the system. Yes, it’ll let you know if there’s a car back there over your shoulder. Where it doesn’t work well is with bicycles or people who may also be there. It just can’t, it’s not that accurate of a system. The monitors are an aid, not a replacement for actually checking. Sort of a “reminder,” if you will. Also, about 25% of the people out there driving with those systems on their cars just straight-up don’t even bother looking for cars when they change lanes. We all see those people on the Cap City Freeway daily.

Auto braking and forward-collision warnings. People think these are the same thing, which they are not. One simply warns you that there’s something not moving nearly as fast as you in front of you. The other one automatically applies the brakes for you. Neither should be a replacement for not paying attention, obviously.

Adaptive cruise control is another great feature that a lot of people misuse. If you’re not familiar, it’s a cruise control that will slow you down automatically as you approach another car, and maintain a set distance from that car. It’s great for a long highway drive in light or no traffic. But, according to the findings, 29% of the people using this system admit that they’re comfortable “engaging in other activities.” Whatever that means.

Jake Nelson is the director of traffic safety advocacy and research for AAA, and he says “I think there’s a general assumption among members of the public that technologies in vehicles today will do things for us… These technologies are not meant to replace us behind the wheel. They’re meant to help us out.” He also says that automakers should educate customers about the technology better than they already do.

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