Car Safety Features Useful Only if You Know How They Work

The latest cars have safety features that were only dreamt about ten years ago. Cars can detect nearby pedestrians, determine that the driver is drowsy or falling asleep and wake him up and stop the vehicle automatically if there is something in its path. All these features have the potential to prevent injuries and deaths because accidents are avoided; but that potential might not be realized if Connecticut vehicle owners don’t understand the features or how or when they work.

Drivers can use the internet to learn about different vehicles and their features, but it’s ultimately the salesperson and the car dealer who actually interact with the buyer. Last year researchers from MIT’s Agelab went undercover and talked to salespeople at 18 dealerships in the Boston area, according to Wired.

Their goal was to find out how much salespeople knew about the increasingly sophisticated and common automated driver assistance features on the vehicles they sold — things like crash avoidance, lane-keeping, adaptive cruise control and blind-spot monitoring. Their research found that the sales staff didn’t know much.

  • Only six of 17 salespeople spoken to gave “thorough” explanations of the technologies in the vehicles they were selling.
  • However, explanations by four of them were rated as “poor.”
  • At least two gave what was considered almost dangerously incorrect information. One claimed Ford’s pedestrian-detection technology works at all speeds, though in reality it activates only if the vehicle is going at least 30 mph. Another told researchers that drivers didn’t have to apply the brakes when using Chevrolet’s parking assist tech. They do.

Though this is a small sample, it’s a reminder that, as technology improves, dealers, salespeople and buyers need to keep up. As vehicles take on more of the work that drivers used to do, those behind the wheel need more and better information about what the technology is doing and what their role is as driver. Dealers are the critical link to see that the driver is provided with that information.

If the dealers and salespeople do a poor job in explaining the latest, optional safety features, customers may decide they’re not worth the extra cost and not buy them. Another outcome is that if these new features come with the car and the driver doesn’t understand or like them, the features may be turned off and be of no benefit. In a study published last year by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, researchers found that of 265 Hondas brought in for servicing at dealerships in the Washington, DC, area, fewer than a third had their lane-departure warning feature turned on.

Blame for the problem is easily spread.

  • Dealerships, not the manufacturers, employ the salespeople.
  • Some manufacturers have contractors training their dealers.
  • Training material given to salespeople may be of poor quality.
  • Safety systems may be too complex to expect the average driver to learn about and effectively use them.

The MIT researchers found some bright spots:

  • Subaru was found to do a great job teaching customers about its EyeSight technology, combining well-informed sales talk with brochures and in-dealership tech displays.
  • The National Automotive Dealer Association is working with the National Safety Council and the University of Iowa to create and publicize org, which explains many safety technologies found in today’s vehicles.

The Law Firm of Ronald M. Scherban has over 40 years of experience in pursuing personal injury cases. Practicing from offices in New Haven, the firm has the knowledge, experience and resources to serve your legal needs. If you or a loved one has been injured in a vehicle accident, contact us today and let us help. If you have questions or would like a free evaluation, contact us online or call us at (203) 290-1333. The evaluation is free, and you pay no out-of-pocket expenses until your case is closed.