Drivers may recognize the benefits of having blind spot monitoring, forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning and other advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) in their vehicles, to warn if a crash is imminent or to temporarily automate some functions.
But while these safety technologies are becoming standard, most drivers don’t understand their limitations, and confusion about their proper function can lead to misuse, over reliance, driver distraction and other unsafe behavior.
The results can be deadly.
Those are the key findings of new research released last month by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, a nonprofit research and education association.
“When properly utilized, ADAS technologies have the potential to prevent 40 percent of all vehicle crashes and nearly 30 percent of traffic deaths,” Dr. David Yang, executive director of the AAA Foundation, said in a statement.
The report’s findings indicated that if installed on all vehicles, ADAS technologies can potentially prevent more than 2.7 million crashes, 1.1 million injuries and nearly 9,500 deaths each year.
“However, driver understanding and proper use is crucial in reaping the full safety benefits of these systems,” Yang added. “Findings from this new research show that there is still a lot of work to be done in educating drivers about proper use of ADAS technologies and their limitations.”
For the report,“Vehicle Owners’ Experiences with and Reactions to Advanced Driver Assistance Systems” the AAA Foundation commissioned researchers from the University of Iowa to survey drivers who recently purchased a 2016 or 2017 model-year vehicle with ADAS technologies.
Here are some highlights:
– Nearly 80 % of drivers with blind spot monitoring systems were unaware of limitations or incorrectly believed the systems could accurately monitor the roadway behind the vehicle or reliably detect bicycles, pedestrians and vehicles passing at high speeds. “In reality, the technology can only detect when a vehicle is traveling in a driver’s blind spot and many systems do not reliably detect pedestrians or cyclists,” the report noted.
–Nearly 40 %of drivers did not know the limitations of forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking systems,or confused the two technologies, incorrectly reporting that forward collision warning could apply the brakes in the case of an emergency when the technology is only designed to deliver a warning signal.
– About 25 % of drivers using blind spot monitoring or rear cross traffic alert systemsreported feeling comfortable relying solely on the systems and not performing visual checks or looking over their shoulder for oncoming traffic or pedestrians.
– About 25 %of vehicle owners using forward collision warning or lane departure warning systems reported feeling comfortable engaging in other tasks while driving.
– 33% of owners of vehicles with automatic emergency braking systems did not realize that the system relied on cameras or sensors that could be blocked by dirt, ice, or snow.
“New vehicle safety technology is designed to make driving safer, but it does not replace the important role each of us plays behind the wheel,” Yang continued. “Automakers have an ethical and important responsibility to accurately market, and to carefully educate consumers about the technologies we purchase in the vehicles we drive off the lot.”
Only about half of the drivers who reported reported buying their vehicle from a car dealership recalled being offered training on how to use ADAS technology, according to the report, which said its findings should prompt focus on the importance of educating new and used car buyers about how safety technologies work.
Until better safety training is widely available and utilized, the AAA recommends a series of tips:
– Read the owner’s manual to learn about what systems are installed in your vehicle.
–Insist on an in-vehicle demonstration and test drive to understand how systems will engage on the road
–Ask plenty of questions about the alerts, functions, capabilities and limitations before leaving the dealership, like if there are scenarios when a technology will not function properly on the road.