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.

Why are Road Fatalities Increasing?

In 2016, there were a total of 37,461 traffic fatalities on America’s roads. For the first time in nearly a decade, more than 100 people died each day on our highways. Since 2014, traffic deaths have spiked by about 14.4 percent.

While traffic deaths in general have increased, the sharpest spikes have been among motorcyclists, bicyclists, and pedestrians. Motorcycling deaths have gone up by 15.1 percent since 2014, while bicycling deaths have gone up by 15.2 percent, and pedestrian fatalities have exploded by 21.9 percent. Almost 6,000 pedestrians died last year, making it the deadliest year for pedestrians since 1990. There were 840 cyclist deaths, marking a 25-year high.

The 2016 death toll rose sharply, with motorcyclists, bicyclists, and pedestrians accounting for more than a third of the increase. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) still has not reached any official conclusions as to what is causing the increase.

Possible Causes

The usual causes—speeding, drunk driving, and lack of seat belt usage—have done their share to contribute to the increase in traffic fatalities. But these factors alone aren’t enough to explain the change. Americans are speeding and drinking slightly more than they had been previously, but seat belt usage has gotten better, reaching a rate of 90.1 percent.

Americans have been driving more, with the total number of miles driven increasing by 2.2 percent from 2015 to 2016. But this doesn’t account for the whole increase, because the fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles driven increased from 1.15 to 1.18. So American roads are more dangerous, even after accounting for the longer distances driven.

A possible cause for the increase in motorcycle deaths is that motorcyclists as a group are getting older, so there are more elderly riders on the road. In the period between 2005 and 2015, the percentage of motorcycle deaths involving riders 40 and over increased from 17 percent to more than half of all motorcycle deaths!

Despite some evidence for a decline in distracted driving, some groups believe distracted driving in general (and cell phone use in particular) has been a major factor in the increase in fatalities. It is notoriously difficult to prove an accident was the result of distracted driving, especially in the case of cell phone use. A driver using his or her cell phone can be distracted at the time of the accident but not show any signs of it a moment later. “We all know what’s going on, but we don’t have a breathalyzer for a phone,” said Jennifer Smith, founder of

Whether you’re a driver or a pedestrian, be safe out there.

Contact Our Firm

If you or a loved one has been injured in a pedestrian or cycling accident, or if a loved one has died, the Connecticut injury attorneys at Ronald M. Scherban, P.C. can help. We will determine who was at fault and what damages you can seek from the negligent party. Evidence needs to be gathered quickly in the case of accidents, so it is important to act as soon as possible to begin your case.

Ronald M. Scherban, P.C. represents clients in the greater New Haven area and the entire state of Connecticut. Call us today at (203) 290-1333 to about what we can do for you and your family.

Apple & Auto Manufacturers Help to Stop Distracted Driving

A recent study from Cambridge Mobile Telematics (CMT) shows that distracted driving is implicated in a significant percentage of vehicular accidents, and the biggest culprit appears to be the use of cell phones. The study found that in more than half of accidents – 52 percent – drivers were on cell phones; of those, 29 percent were driving more than 56 miles per hour. The study found that texting, browsing and email were the most common distractions, accounting for roughly 135 seconds per incident. Furthermore, in a comparison of 37 states that ban all cell phone use for teen drivers with states that do not, there was little difference, leading many to suggest that the bans are ineffective.

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Pedestrian Deaths Highest in Two Decades

The benefits of walking are almost too numerous to count. The health aspect is one: walking burns calories, exercises muscles and acts as good cardio. It’s safe for the environment: an automobile runs on gas, is made of metal made in plants and spews carbon dioxide. It’s social: walking gives an individual more time to take stock of the surrounding environment, to socialize and to relax. Even more, it saves money: the American Automobile Association (AAA) estimates on average it costs $8,558 to operate a car annually. However, despite the upside to walking, according to recent reports, walking has become something else in the last year: more dangerous.

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Will Self Driving Cars Cause More Accidents?

With several manufacturers already testing this concept on the open road, self-driving cars are sure to become more popular in the future. At first glance, it may seem like having a self-driving car would reduce the risk of accidents by eliminating driver error, which is a common cause of crashes. However, studies have shown that the opposite is actually true. Even though self-driving cars are less likely to be the cause of an accident, they are more likely to be involved in one.

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