June 22, 2016
Over the last decade, car technology has advanced rapidly. Our vehicles serve more purposes than ever before and are also easier to navigate. In addition, and perhaps more importantly, cars keep drivers and passengers safer than they ever have before thanks to new safety devices and technologies. Automatic emergency braking is expected to be a standard feature on nearly all new cars by September of 2022. While safer cars are definitely desirable, they can, however, mystify some drivers. Being confused or overwhelmed by some of the newer safety features causes some drivers to not utilize them at all. A new educational campaign is underway to help drivers understand how the high-tech safety features work and to encourage them to use them more frequently. Texas A&M’s Transportation Institute Senior research scientist, Sue Chrysler, has the job of studying and trying out all of the innovative safety features that have recently come on the market. She and her colleagues have found that many drivers are intimidated by the safety features in their new cars. In fact, some drivers didn’t even know their vehicles came equipped with such technologies until they were already at work on their behalf. The National Safety Council has created a website, MyCarDoesWhat.org to help drivers become more familiar, and therefore comfortable, with close to 30 of the latest safety features available on new cars. The website utilizes videos and animations to help explain these features. Sue Chrysler and her team helped develop this site. She notes that they felt these safety features have a lot of potential to prevent crashes and lessen their severity when they do happen and that it is important for people to understand how to use them. Drivers who have used these features have praised them. For instance, Carolyn Nussbaum-Coggan, a Plano, Texas mother of three was rear-ended just months after purchasing her new Volvo. Further damage was prevented to her car and additional vehicles as even though her car was jolted forward because of the crash, advanced safety features kept the Volvo from being pushed further into traffic. Carolyn reports that the safety features went to work all on their own when they were needed without her having to do anything. At the same time, experts still warn that there is no substitute for attentive driving. Sue emphasizes that drivers still have to think for themselves. She encourages drivers to think of the advanced safety features like an extra set of eyes in the car to point out potential safety hazards like brake lights ahead.