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Driver’s (safety) ed

Clear up policyholder confusion around advanced safety systems.

Advanced safety systems are a new reality for many drivers. According to Consumer Reports, 93% of new vehicles today offer at least one. Many of these features are coming standard in popular models, and an industry mandate promises that brake-assistance technology will be on every new vehicle by 2022.

This is great news because the data shows they work. A 2019 IIHS study examining the benefits of crash-avoidance technologies found that cars with forward collision warning, for example, had:

  • 27% fewer front-to-rear crashes
  • 20% fewer front-to-rear crashes with injuries
  • 9% fewer claim rates for damages to other vehicles
  • 16% fewer claim rates for injuries to people in other vehicles

However, despite their prevalence and effectiveness, advanced safety systems remain a bit of a mystery to policyholders.


What is — and isn’t — an advanced safety system?

Seatbelts, airbags and anti-lock brakes are important safety features that come standard in vehicles today, but they are different from relatively newer advanced safety systems, technologies that help drivers avoid accidents. Advanced safety systems include letting the driver know if the vehicle is about to or has already moved outside the lane, or automatically engaging the brakes if an object is ahead. Unlike a seatbelt or an airbag that is more self-contained in terms of how it functions, many advanced safety systems rely on communications from the front-facing camera connected to the windshield.


Does this term mean the same as that term?

While naming standardization efforts appear to be underway at the industry level, today six different vehicles may have six different names for the same safety function. Even within one manufacturer, a different term might be used on the website, in the manual and even in the dealership — all for the same function. Consistent naming will make it easier for consumers to compare different vehicles and to know what their vehicle is actually capable of.


Do I still have to pay attention to the road?

Naming also plays a role in a more significant safety discussion. While advanced safety systems are designed to assist — not replace — drivers, some of the current names, like Autopilot, Traffic Jam Assist and Super Cruise, have misled drivers to believe they don’t have to pay full attention to the road.

Research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found “there is still a lot of work to be done in educating drivers about proper use of [advanced safety systems] and their limitations,” according to executive director Dr. David Yang. Nearly 40 percent of drivers confused forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking systems, thinking incorrectly that the former included applying the brakes not just alerting the driver of an object ahead. The survey also revealed that one in six vehicle owners did not know if their vehicle had automatic emergency braking.


Can I turn off that beeping sound?

While advanced safety systems have proven to be effective, some drivers find their signals — like audible alerts — too bothersome or stressful and turn them off. A 2019 J.D. Power study called out lane-keeping assist and centering systems specifically, saying 23 percent of owners with these systems complained about the alerts. In that group, 61 percent said they sometimes disable the system.

As part of recalibration, advanced safety systems may be returned to original factory settings. Remind your policyholders to check any custom settings they put into place in case they have been reset.


Help your policyholders stay safe

Today, advanced safety systems are raising a lot of questions with policyholders. To get the true benefits of what they offer, driver awareness, understanding and perceptions of them need to change. Educate your policyholders about the top 5 advanced safety system features that rely on the front-facing camera, help them find out which systems are in their vehicles, and remind them of how they keep them safe.


Top five advanced safety system features

Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB) Warns the driver of an imminent collision ahead, and then stops brakes if the driver hasn’t already done so

Forward Collision Warning (FCW) Alerts the driver of an imminent collision ahead

Lane-Keeping Assist System (LKAS) The vehicle gently corrects the steering to keep it within the lane markings

Lane Departure Warning (LDW) If the driver hasn’t used the turn signal, it alerts the driver if there is danger of the car leaving the lane, or if actually leaves the lane

Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) Changes the set cruising speed if it detects a slower vehicle ahead