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Wednesday, October 17, 2018 by The Press in Opinion

Drivers rely too heavily on new vehicle safety technologies despite limitations

More and more, drivers are recognizing the value in having vehicles with advanced driver assistance systems like blind spot monitoring systems, forward collision warning and lane keeping assist.

However, while many of these technologies are rapidly being offered as standard, many drivers are unaware of the safety limitations of ADAS in their vehicles, according to new research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

When properly used, ADAS technologies have the potential to prevent 40 percent of all vehicle crashes and nearly 30 percent of traffic deaths.

Lack of understanding or confusion about the proper function of ADAS technologies, however, can lead to misuse and over reliance on the systems, which could result in a deadly crash.

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.

“These new research findings should cause automakers and others to increase focus on consumer education,” says Tom Ashley, executive vice president of AAA East Central. “Driver understanding and proper use are crucial in reaping the full safety benefits of these systems.”

Additionally, AAA also urges drivers to take charge of learning their vehicle technology’s functions and limitations in order to improve safety on the road.

“Make a point to read your owner’s manual to learn which systems are available, and ask plenty of questions when buying your vehicle,” Ashley continued.

Study Results

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety commissioned researchers from the University of Iowa to survey drivers who recently purchased a 2016 or 2017 model-year vehicle with ADAS technologies.

Researchers evaluated drivers’ opinions, awareness and understanding of these technologies and found that most did not know or understand the limitations of the systems:

•Blind spot monitoring: 80 percent of drivers did not know the technology’s limitations or incorrectly believed the systems could 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.

•Forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking: nearly 40 percent of drivers did not know the system’s limitations, 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.

Moreover, roughly one in six vehicle owners in the survey reported that they did not know whether their vehicle was equipped with automatic emergency braking.

False expectations for ADAS systems can easily lead to misuse of the technology or an increase in driver distraction.

In the survey

•About 25 percent of drivers using blind spot monitoring or rear cross traffic alert systems report feeling comfortable relying solely on the systems and not performing visual checks or looking over their shoulder for oncoming traffic or pedestrians.

•About 25 percent of vehicle owners using forward collision warning or lane departure warning systems report feeling comfortable engaging in other tasks while driving.

“While these technologies are a step in the direction of making vehicles safer, drivers should not abandon the time-tested safe practices they are accustomed to,” continued Ashley.

The Silver Lining of Crash Prevention

As part of its ongoing traffic safety mission, new AAA Foundation research also evaluated the potential these popular advanced driver assistance technologies have in helping to reduce or prevent crashes. The findings show 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.

Despite the findings that show confusion about some ADAS technologies, at least 70 percent of vehicle owners report they would recommend the technology to other drivers.

The greatest proportion of drivers reported trusting blind spot monitoring systems (84 percent), followed by rear-cross traffic alert (82 percent), lane departure warning (77 percent), lane keeping assist (73 percent), forward collision warning (69 percent) and automatic emergency braking (66 percent).

These findings should prompt additional focus on the importance of educating new and used car buyers about how safety technologies work. Unfortunately, only about half the drivers who report purchasing their vehicle from a car dealership recalled being offered a training on the ADAS technology.

However, for those who were, nearly 90 percent took advantage of the opportunity and completed the training.

For now, drivers are their best safety advocate to ensure that they understand their technology’s features, functions and limitations before leaving the lot.

To reduce misuse or overreliance on the systems, AAA encourages drivers to:

•Research: Read your owner’s manual to learn what systems are installed in your vehicle.

•See it in action: Insist on an in-vehicle demonstration and test drive to better understand how the systems will engage on the roadway.

•Ask questions: Ask plenty of questions about the alerts, functions, capabilities and limitations of the vehicle’s safety technologies before leaving the dealership.

For example, ask if there are scenarios when a technology will not function properly on the road.

For additional resources, visit AAA.com/DriverAssistanceSystem. AAA’s classroom or online Roadwise Driver course can also help drivers learn more about the functions and limitations of popular ADAS technologies available on new vehicles.

The AAA Foundation’s mission is to prevent traffic deaths and injuries by conducting research into their causes and by educating the public about strategies to prevent crashes and reduce injuries when they do occur.

This research is used to develop educational materials for drivers, pedestrians, bicyclists and other road users. Visit AAAFoundation.org.

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Editor’s note: AAA East Central is a nonprofit association with 80 local offices in Kentucky, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia serving 2.7 million members.