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The Vehicle Safety Technology Paradox: Don’t Forget, You’re the One in Control


The Vehicle Safety Technology Paradox: Don’t Forget, You’re the One in Control

If advanced-driver-assist system (ADAS) technologies are installed on all vehicles, it can potentially prevent more than 2.7 million crashes, 1.1 million injuries and nearly 9,500 deaths each year according to a report by AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. However, it also warns that many drivers are unaware of the current safety limitations. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety notes that lack of understanding or confusion about the proper function of these ADAS technologies can lead to misuse or overreliance, which could result in deadly crashes.

According to a survey conducted by the National Safety Council in 2017, more than 30 percent of the respondents mistakenly believed their vehicles were so advanced, that “my car pretty much drives itself.” Yet, from the same survey, 37 percent of respondents who drove vehicles with features such as blind spot monitoring and lane departure warning reported shutting them off because it was “confusing,” “irritating” or issuing “too many false alarms”.

Many drivers have already relegated responsibility to maintain active control of their vehicles to these systems which highlights the concern—overreliance on technology without proper knowledge or training. Based on the statistics above, it shows that drivers are unaware of what triggers these systems, how to react once initiated and the elevated risk levels when the technology is activated.

Even more concerning is the fact that, in many cases drivers believe that their vehicles’ systems have safety features that are not actually installed.

According to Robyn Robertson, the president and CEO of the non-profit Traffic Injury Research Foundation, it is not surprising many drivers are confused about the limitations of the newer driver assist technologies, given the pace of innovations in recent years. Additionally, with companies like Google and Tesla garnering mass media attention about self-driving cars, Robertson worries drivers think many of the technologies are already standard when, in fact, vehicles that are fully or even partially self-driving are still years away.

This is a serious dilemma for fleet operators choosing to invest in advanced vehicles. For those who have already begun adoption, stagnant or increased crash rates are emerging because drivers have their own misconceptions of what the technology does. If you are considering investments in ADAS technologies, doesn’t it also make sense to assure your drivers are trained to be able to: properly use and “integrate” with these high-tech tools; know the systems’ limitations in order to maintain proper situational awareness; and smartly operate their vehicles for the best safety results?

Bryan Reimer, an associate director of the New England University Transportation Center, indicates that progressive vehicles work best when drivers are adequately trained how and when to use driver assist technologies. “The functionality of the technology is very good at this point, but how do you teach people how to use it appropriately?” Reimer said. “Reading the owner’s manual is not going to provide the information that you need.”

Instead, Reimer suggests ongoing driver training programs. As recent crash and road fatality statistics prove, exposure to unsafe driving habits is not decreasing or even leveling off. While driver assist systems are certainly able to help manage some dangerous scenarios, they may also intensify or create new risks which drivers have never encountered but must continuously prepare for in order maintain the highest level of safety behind the wheel.

Many progressive fleet operators have already successfully incorporated continuous cycles of advanced behind-the-wheel safety training, but it’s also important for fleet operators to look for programs that include sessions about ADAS technologies. These enhanced courses help drivers to: understand how the systems work; prepare for potential hazardous scenarios; and recognize that they are always responsible for their own safety behind the wheel. Including this learning content is crucial because like other poor driving behaviors that develop overtime, without training and practice, individuals may eventually adopt their own preferred uses regarding the new technology that may not actually be safe.

As vehicles continue to become more complex, be mindful of the vehicle safety system paradox—just because driver assist systems are installed and serve as additional tools, doesn’t mean drivers should blindly rely on them. As we all know, technology can be unpredictable. Drivers should always be trained with the proper skills and behaviors to avoid or handle any hazardous situation and have the appropriate knowledge about these systems to ensure the driver is always in control of the vehicle, not the other way around.

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