A new study examines the driving public's knowledge of such technologies as blind spot monitoring. Image courtesy of General Motors.

A new study examines the driving public's knowledge of such technologies as blind spot monitoring. Image courtesy of General Motors.

Are all your fleet drivers taking full advantage of any company investments in new collision-avoidance or driver-assistance technologies?

Perhaps not, if such advanced safety technology isn’t part of a driver training program. According to a new study from the University of Iowa, a majority of drivers express uncertainty about how some of today’s vehicle safety technologies work. The survey also indicated that 40 percent of drivers report that their vehicles have acted or behaved in unexpected ways.

The study, conducted by the University of Iowa Transportation and Vehicle Safety Research Division, examined drivers’ knowledge of vehicle safety systems, as well as their understanding and use of defensive driving techniques. The study combined a literature review, the input of industry and academic experts in human factors research, and an in-depth survey of more than 2,000 adult drivers across the U.S.

Researchers learned that a majority of respondents had heard of, been exposed to, or interacted with at least one of the nine vehicle safety features studied. However, drivers expressed uncertainty about all of the technologies.

“As technologies like rear-view cameras and lane departure warning systems advance and become more prevalent in the cars we’re driving, there is a tremendous need to improve consumer understanding of these critical safety features,” said Daniel McGehee, director of the Transportation and Vehicle Safety Research Division at the UI Public Policy Center.

Consumers reported they least understood adaptive cruise control (65 percent) and lane-departure warning systems (36 percent). They were also uncertain about features that have been standard in American cars for years – such as anti-lock braking systems and tire pressure-monitoring systems, according to the survey.

“The level of confusion about features that have been standard in American cars for quite awhile was really surprising,” McGehee said. “The little details about how some of these systems work are really important when we’re talking about safety. We need to do a better job of making sure consumers are comfortable with them.”

To address that need, the University of Iowa recently partnered with the National Safety Council to launch MyCarDoesWhat, a national campaign aimed at educating consumers about new safety technologies and how they work. The campaign website, MyCarDoesWhat.org, includes educational videos and a range of information about safety features that help drivers avoid or reduce the severity of a crash.

The website is part of a larger national education campaign set to launch this fall. The data-driven campaign includes academic and consumer research, videos, graphics, animation, social media, a game, an app and advertising to educate drivers.

The safety technologies included in the study were:

  • Back-up camera – provides a view of the area directly behind the car when the vehicle is in reverse.
  • Blind spot monitor – alerts drivers when there may be something located in their blind spot.
  • Forward collision warning – warns drivers when they’re closing in on the vehicle ahead too quickly.
  • Anti-lock braking systems – prevents wheels from locking up, helps avoid uncontrolled skidding and provides some steering control in slippery conditions such as snow.
  • Rear cross traffic alert – provides an alert to the driver that traffic is approaching from the left or right when the vehicle is in reverse.
  • Adaptive cruise control – maintains the speed set by the driver and a pre-set following distance.
  • Automatic emergency braking systems – automatically applies moderate to hard braking when the system detects that a collision is imminent.
  • Lane-departure warning – alerts drivers when they drift into another lane when the turn signal is not activated.
  • Traction control – Works in the background to help accelerate and prevent wheel slippage (or “over-spinning”) when driving on slippery surfaces.

To download the full study, click here.