Are drivers becoming too comfortable behind the wheel?

New study explores drivers' understanding of safety features in their vehicles

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Self-driving cars are still in the works, but many drivers are seeing more flashy new features in their vehicles.

Advanced Driver Assistance Systems are becoming part of standard technology for drivers, but the features may be making some a little too comfortable behind the wheel.

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety conducted a study with help from the University of Iowa. In their research, drivers with ADAS features were asked about their understandings of their technologies. 

Some vehicles are equipped with blind spot monitoring, others have systems warning drivers of obstacles up ahead, while some systems can automatically deploy emergency brakes. The features can be lifesaving if they are used correctly, but the study found many drivers don't have a complete understanding of those features. 

"Drivers are becoming very dependent and almost over-reliant on these advanced driver assistance technologies," AAA spokesman Joshua Zuber explained. 

When it came to blind spot monitors, about 80 percent of drivers incorrectly believed the system could detect other cars or bikes passing at high rates of speed. Some also falsely thought the system could monitor the roadway behind their vehicle. 

About 25 percent of the drivers surveyed told researchers they felt comfortable relying on the blind spot monitor, instead of physically checking over their shoulder for any obstacles. 

The study by the AAA Foundation says nearly 40 percent of drivers confused forward collision warnings and automatic emergency braking systems. The drivers incorrectly believed the emergency feature could apply the brakes in an emergency. 

Researchers say drivers need to learn about the features in their vehicles. Before making that purchase, ask for a demonstration on how to properly use those systems. 

"If you already have purchased a car, go ahead and head back to your dealer and ask to be educated. Also, a great resource is the owner's manual," Zuber advised.

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