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Drivers not aware of limitations of car safety systems

Have you ever noticed that when you are doing something that you have become very complacent with, you sometimes miss something? Complacency can do that. On the other hand, when you were a little nervous but very focused on something, did you perform better than you thought? This phenomenon relates to the Yerkes-Dodson law, suggesting that performance can be improved when arousal in what you are doing is increased.

A new study shows that many new drivers in cars with advanced driver assistance systems are not following the Yerkes-Dodson law. These drivers are unaware of the limitations of these safety systems and complacency that the car is keeping them safe can actually put them in danger.

There is a lack of understanding or confusion about how these safety systems work which leads to over-reliance on the systems. The technologies that were looked at in the study included:

Blind spot monitoring – The limitations of this technology was not known by 80 percent of the drivers. The drivers incorrectly believed the system could monitor the road behind their vehicle and detect people on bicycles, walkers and vehicles approaching at a high speed.

Forward collision – Almost 40 percent of drivers in the survey did not know or were confused thinking that a warning with the forward collision system would automatically apply the brakes. However, it only provides a warning signal and does not apply the brakes. What is also concerning is that one in six drivers who own cars with this technology did not know if their car had automatic emergency braking.

Adaptive cruise control – Twenty-nine percent of drivers who used this control, which speeds up or slows down the vehicle on its own, said they are comfortable doing other things when the system is on.

While technology is useful and these systems are reportedly going to save 10,000 lives a year by preventing 2.7 million crashes, it is important that drivers get educated about what these systems can and cannot do.

If you have these technologies in the car you drive, you should:

  • Read the owner’s manual and get acquainted with safety systems and how they work.
  • Ask for a demonstration of the safety systems and use them during a test-drive prior to purchasing the car.
  • Take time to understand the alerts, capabilities, functions and the limitations of each of the safety systems. You should ask questions of the dealer if you are not sure about an aspect of the technology in the vehicle. 

With cars that are driving themselves and so much technology in so many new cars, you may think you can just go on auto-pilot when you drive. Unfortunately, that would be a very dangerous thing to do. If you drive a car and don’t understand how some of the systems work, you should take the time to learn its limitations and capabilities before you continue to drive.

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