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AAA finds drivers overestimate the power of car safety tech

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety has found that many drivers in West Virginia and across the U.S. are relying too heavily on their car safety features like blind-spot monitoring and adaptive cruise control. While car safety features can, according to federal estimates, reduce the number of car crashes by 40 percent and crash-related deaths by 30 percent, they can still backfire when drivers do not understand their limitations.

For example, blind-spot monitoring has a limited ability to detect fast-approaching vehicles, bicyclists and pedestrians. Yet, according to a AAA study, 80 percent of drivers with the system overestimate this ability. 20 percent go so far as to never check for oncoming vehicles when changing lanes.

Adaptive cruise control has its limits, too, and does not replace driver input. AAA has discovered, though, that 29 percent feel comfortable engaging in other activities when this feature is activated. Other technology has become the subject of confusion among drivers. More than 40 percent cannot tell apart automatic emergency braking from forward-collision warning.

The study suggests that misleading marketing is part of the problem. Dealers, automakers and rental-car companies are also neglecting to educate customers on the limitations of each safety feature. The results raise the important question of how drivers who have been made complacent by technology can adapt to a future with semi-autonomous vehicles.

Safety features do not excuse drivers from the responsibility they have to keep their vehicles under control. When they neglect this responsibility and cause a car crash, they will be deemed at fault at least to a certain percentage. Victims may benefit from consulting with a lawyer, who will explain the state's comparative negligence laws, evaluate the claim and take it on if the grounds are strong enough. Victims might leave the negotiations to their lawyer, taking the case to court as a last resort.

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