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AAA: Drivers Rely Too Heavily on New Vehicle Safety Technologies

Sep 29, 2018 08:39AM ● By Bill Gilman

AAA Northeast

          The Good News: If installed on all vehicles, Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) can potentially prevent more than 2.7 million crashes, 1.1 million injuries and nearly 9,500 deaths each year.

            The Bad News: Many drivers are unaware of the safety limitations on ADAS in their vehicles, which could lead to misuse and overreliance on the systems, potentially resulting in a deadly crash.


            One Solution: Drivers should understand their technology’s features, functions and limitations before driving off the lot. Automakers and dealers should accurately market and carefully educate consumers about the technologies they are purchasing.


            Advanced safety technologies in new vehicles have the potential to save lives, but drivers who purchase these systems generally are unaware of their safety limitations, fail to use them properly or place too much trust in their capabilities, according to new research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. These technologies include adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, and rear cross traffic alert.

“When properly utilized, ADAS technologies have the potential to prevent 40 percent of all vehicle crashes and nearly 30 percent of traffic deaths. However, driver understanding and proper use is crucial in reaping the full safety benefits of these systems,” says Mary Maguire, Director of Public and Legislative Affairs for AAA Northeast. “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.”

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 that the systems could monitor the roadway behind the vehicle or reliably detect bicycles, pedestrians and vehicles passing at high speeds.
  • 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 or not their vehicle was equipped with automatic emergency braking. 

These findings should prompt additional focus on the importance of educating new and used car buyers about how safety technologies work. “Drivers need adequate training and effective educational resources that simply do not exist,” added Ms. Maguire. “AAA is sharing this new research with vehicle manufacturers and other stakeholders to help establish effective education tools that will benefit car buyers. If strong consumer education about vehicle technology was as much a priority as making the sale, we would all reap the benefits.”

Drivers should understand their technology’s features, functions and limitations before leaving the lot, to reduce misuse or overreliance on the systems. AAA encourages drivers to:

  • Read your owner’s manual to learn what systems are installed in your vehicle.
  • Be an informed buyer: Ask plenty of questions about the alerts, functions, capabilities and limitations of the vehicle’s safety technologies before leaving the dealership. Insist on an in-vehicle demonstration and test drive to better understand how the systems will engage on the roadway.


AAA Northeast is a not-for-profit auto club with 66 offices in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, New Hampshire and New York, providing more than 5.7 million local AAA members with travel, insurance, finance, and auto-related services.

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