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Does Cruise Control Help to Reduce Car Accident Risks?

Cruise control is one of the most popular features on cars and can make long trips much more pleasant for drivers. One key question, though, is whether cruise control makes driving safer or whether it increases the risk of accidents. A French study attempted to answer this question, but as the Boston Herald reports, the results showed that the impact of cruise control on an accident risk is not clear-cut. car-interior-1094865-m.jpg

Our Boston car accident lawyers know that the NHTSA has listed adaptive cruise control as an important emerging crash avoidance technology that could mitigate the effects of poor driver performance. Unfortunately, adaptive cruise control technologies are still costly and out of reach for most motorists, so motorists using their standard cruise control need to understand how its use can both make driving safer and how using cruise control can create accident risks.

Cruise Control Can Make You Safer in Some Ways But is Dangerous in Others

French researchers studied the impact of cruise control on accidents by dividing 90 French drivers into different age groups and putting them through a driving simulator for three days. Drivers were hooked up to machines that measured their eye movements and brain activities as they drove. Each simulated driving course was approximately 75 miles long and motorists encountered different obstacles, including construction, a bus accident a toll booth and a radar. Participants were also asked to report their vigilance level every 15 minutes.

The study showed that cruise control helps to reduce speeding. This is an important benefit as speeding is a contributing factor in about a third of all car accidents, and the NHTSA estimates that the total economic cost of speeding is around $40.4 billion a year, or $1,281 per second. By keeping the vehicle at a constant speed that they set on the cruise, drivers were more likely to travel at or close to the limit.

Unfortunately, while motorists with cruise control might not be as likely to speed, the use of cruise control increases the risk of drowsy driving and distracted driving accidents. Both brain-scan data and reports from the drivers showed that they were more likely to zone out and let their guard down when the cruise control was on. This was most pronounced among young drivers.

The impact of the cruise control on the driver’s attention span had profound real-world consequences. After just 30 minutes of cruise control use, driver’s went from reporting they felt “rather awake” to reporting that they were “neither awake nor asleep.” The drivers also hit the brakes progressively later and later as the cruise was on for longer, eventually hitting the brakes 85 yards further on at the end of the simulation than at the beginning.

It is not surprising that drivers tend to zone out when using cruise control, but it is dangerous. Adaptive cruise control could help to cut down on the risks as the cruise control can adjust its own speed and react on its own by using a small radar unit to measure the distance between the vehicle and the car in front. Yet, as Extreme Tech reports, adaptive cruise control systems can cost as much as $2,000- $2,500 for a full system, which means many drivers aren’t going to want to pay for this feature.

Even when adaptive cruise control becomes more standard, however, drivers need to remember that they remain in charge even when the cruise control is on. Zoning out is never OK and motorists should pay careful attention just as they would if their foot was on the gas.

If you or someone you love has been injured in a car accident in the Boston area, contact Jeffrey S. Glassman for a free and confidential appointment to discuss your rights. Call 1-877-617-5333.

More Blog Entries:
Massachusetts Traffic Safety Watch: Autumn Risks Behind the Wheel, Boston Car Accident Lawyer Blog, August 16, 2013