Survey reveals confusion over vehicle safety features

A recent survey indicates that many drivers do not understand the purpose of the safety technology in their vehicles or how those features work.

To combat the injury and fatality crashes each year, new vehicle safety technologies are constantly being developed and made available to the public. These often begin as optional features, but eventually they typically become standard in all new automobiles on the roads in New Jersey and across the country.

New technology comes with a learning curve for many drivers, and to determine how well people understand their vehicles, the University of Iowa Public Policy Center conducted a National Survey of Consumer Driving Safety Technologies. This survey included both new systems and ones that have been implemented for years.

Safety features

The study measured drivers' understanding of nine popular vehicle safety technologies, including the following:

  • Cruise control and adaptive cruise control
  • Blind spot warning systems
  • Lane departure warning systems
  • Anti-lock braking systems
  • Traction control
  • Tire pressure monitoring system

Other systems included rear-view cameras and sensors to assist in backing up, as well as forward collision warning systems to prevent rear-end collisions.

Survey results

Of the 2,000 participants in the survey, 40 percent - or about 800 drivers - were surprised by something their vehicles did while on the road, according to the survey results. Remarkably, only 32 percent of those drivers tried to figure out why it happened or what the technology was for. Most of those who did do some research turned to the Internet rather than their vehicle manuals.

Adaptive cruise control, which adjusts vehicle speed to maintain a safe distance from cars in front, was the technology least understood, with 65 percent of those surveyed expressing confusion. However, some drivers also admitted they did not understand anti-lock braking systems, which prevent the tires from skidding and the wheels from locking, particularly in slick road conditions.

The level of consumer confusion prompted the National Safety Council to start a campaign to educate people about the application of vehicle technology to driver activities on the road.

New Jersey crashes

Many of these safety features have been available for a decade or more. However, the most recent annual New Jersey Department of Transportation crash records include 238,988 total accidents, with 51,586 involving injuries, and 501 resulting in fatalities. The number of motor vehicle crashes over the past ten years has fluctuated inconsistently, with 2011 having the most accidents during that period, and 2014 having the least, but not by a significant amount. Based on these statistics, it is understandable that researchers are questioning the effectiveness of onboard technology in vehicles.

In addition to property damage, victims of motor vehicle accidents may experience debilitating head and spinal injuries, as well as lacerations and broken bones. Many may be eligible for compensation to cover lost wages, medical bills and pain and suffering. A New Jersey personal injury lawyer is often able to provide legal advice and representation to ensure justice.