Regardless of how you feel about self-driving cars, the reality is that technology has already changed the way millions of people drive. And not necessarily for the better.
If you’re driving a newer model vehicle, chances are it’s equipped with at least a few automatic safety features. This technology is called ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance Systems) and it includes a range of systems from anti-lock brakes, to back-up cameras, to lane-keeping assistance, to name just a few.
The features vary, but the intent behind them is the same—to make driving safer by reducing human error that leads to accidents.
But problems arise when drivers don’t understand how the technology works, and when they over-rely on the warning systems. Confusion is compounded by catchy names and acronyms that vary between manufacturers.
Your attention, please
A 2018 study commissioned by The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety polled more than 1,200 drivers of vehicles equipped with ADAS features. Here are some of the findings:
- About ¼ of all respondents said they felt comfortable relying on various blind-spot monitoring systems, and that oftentimes they did not do a visual check (i.e. looking over their shoulder or checking mirrors) before reversing or changing lanes.
- Nearly 80% of people misunderstand one or more aspects of their blind spot monitoring systems and are unaware that certain conditions limit functionality.
- More than a third of drivers with automatic emergency braking systems did not know that the sensors’ cameras could become unreliable when blocked by dirt, snow or ice.
- Approximately 25% of those polled said they trusted their cars’ warning systems enough that they sometimes engaged in other tasks while driving.
These statistics, among other findings, tell a cautionary tale about ADAS in the real world. We may be safer when our cars can brake automatically, or keep us from drifting into the next lane. But it’s dangerous to think ADAS can, on its own, prevent mishaps. Not only do many people not fully understand how it works, there is always the possibility that the systems, like any technology, could fail to function in certain circumstances.
So how can you use ADAS to make driving safer?
Read your owner’s manual. Yes, the books that come with today’s new cars are longer than most novels. Even if you can’t read it cover-to-cover, block out some time for the sections on the vehicle auto-safety systems. Pay special attention to the features’ limitations, and to any maintenance they require.
Ask for a demonstration. Before you drive the car off the lot, have the sales person or another qualified individual accompany you on a test-drive so you can see how the safety systems will function on the roadway.
Get additional information, if needed. You may realize, weeks or months after purchase, that you still don’t understand all the features on your vehicle. Don’t be afraid to contact the dealership if you have questions. You may also find useful information on the manufacturer’s website.
Follow all maintenance and repair instructions. Cars with ADAS rely on a complicated system of sensors and tiny cameras. If these components become misaligned or damaged in any way, they cannot function properly. Bodywork or repairs to the vehicle glass, in particular, need special care and will probably require recalibration by a dealership or manufacturer-approved repair shop. (Read more on the GSW blog.)
Here, there and everywhere
No matter what you are currently driving, it’s helpful get familiar with ADAS. These systems are here to stay, and are now available on most base-model vehicles and almost all rental cars. It’s important to understand the capabilities—and limitations—of the technology. Until autopilot truly exists, defensive driving is still your best protection against accidents.
For more information on car insurance and safe driving tips, visit our website or contact your General Southwest advisor at 480-990-1900. To read more results from the Emerging Technologies study, go to AAAFoundation.org.