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Will kids who drive cars with safety features learn basic skills?

| Jan 29, 2021 | Auto Accident Injuries |

Advanced vehicle safety features hold great promise. Once they are installed in large numbers of vehicles, they could help reduce or even eliminate crashes caused by human error.

When they can’t avoid a crash altogether, they can often reduce its severity. Assuming the products work as promised, these features could make driving much safer.

That said, there are some reasons for concern. For one thing, some advanced driver assistance systems, such as Tesla’s Autopilot, may not work as expected. There have been crashes, injuries and deaths when people take their hands off the wheel or their attention off the road. There is always a chance that the features may not perform as the driver expects.

Another reason for concern is that advanced vehicle safety features could actually deprive new drivers of the chance to learn basic skills.

“Those features make driving safer, but they don’t make you a safer driver,” one parent involved in a recent study told the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). “Say my teen is driving in a car with all those features engaged [and] that’s what they get used to. Then they go out and buy their own car, and it’s got none of those features. That would be really scary for me.”

Moreover, the technology itself might be distracting or worse. Could all those beeps, buzzes and alarms distract the driver at a crucial moment?

Could a feature that momentarily takes over from the driver, such as a lane departure prevention system, startle a novice driver into overreacting?

The IIHS decided to find out where parents stand on the newest technology. The nonprofit worked with J.D. Power to conduct focus groups involving a total of 21 parents whose teen drivers were using vehicles equipped with at least four of the most common driver assistance features.

These included blind spot monitoring, front or rear automatic emergency braking (AEB), forward collision warning, lane departure warning and lane departure prevention.

Many of the parents said they thought the features would provide some safety benefits. However, they had differing opinions about the utility of the features for a novice driver. The parents were more likely to express reservations about the technology than faith in its effectiveness, at least when applied to a teen driver.

On the other hand, some parents felt that the technology could help teens gain confidence. It can be easy for new drivers to make mistakes that could have serious consequences, and these technologies give immediate feedback when a mistake occurs. They could also prevent mistakes from becoming serious.

Do you think teens benefit from safety technology while they’re learning to drive? Or should they first learn how to avoid mistakes on their own?