Will advanced auto tech keep teens from learning the basics?

When it comes to safe driving, there is a lot for new drivers to learn. They must master all the skills of driving, along with the traffic laws and rules of the road. Among the skills to learn are things like avoiding distraction, predicting other drivers’ actions, and getting into a mindset to notice and quickly respond to changes and emergencies.

Today, some lucky teens are driving vehicles with advanced safety tech, such as:

  • Front or rear automatic emergency braking (AEB)
  • Blind spot monitoring
  • Forward collision warning
  • Lane departure warning
  • Lane departure prevention

Although these features are available in a minority of vehicles, they show promise for reducing or even eliminating crashes — as long as they are used correctly and perform as intended.

But should novice drivers learn with these features in place? Or could having these additional “bells and whistles” actually limit a new driver’s chances to learn from their mistakes?

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), with the help of J.D. Power, recently set up focus groups of parents to get their thoughts. Overall, the parents had some concerns about the new technology in the context of learning to drive:

  • The technology could act as a crutch, allowing teens to take more chances
  • The technology could itself be distracting by buzzing or flashing
  • The technology could startle a new driver, causing them to overreact
  • Relying on the technology could be a mistake if subsequent vehicles don’t include it

The parents could see the potential for increased safety, but they were divided as to how best to use it when teaching a teen to drive. Some were turning off the safety features altogether to force their teens to learn basic driving safety the old fashioned way. Others were gradually introducing the technology as their teen drivers got familiar with driving. Some were allowing their teens to use all of the technology from the beginning.

Some parents felt that the technology could actually help teens learn good habits. For example, a lane departure warning or forward collision warning gives immediate feedback when a driver is in an unsafe position.

Others felt that it was useful to have a safety net as their teens learned the art of driving. Teens are three times for likely than people 20 or older to be involved in a fatal crash. These safety technologies could be a crutch, but they often work and prevent tragedies.

Is your teen monitoring their blind spot?

It’s easy to see how a teen might not learn how to monitor their blind spot effectively when the vehicle is doing it for them. On the other hand, the technology’s warnings could provide helpful feedback to remind a new driver when it’s important to check their blind spot.

The safety promised by the tech could also provide a crucial safety net for teens, allowing nervous drivers to gain confidence without undue risk.

According to the IIHS, more research will be needed in order to determine the best way to incorporate advanced driver safety technologies into driver training. This is especially true because many vehicle owners themselves don’t fully understand the capabilities and limitations of the technology.

Are you teaching a teen to drive? Are you concerned that they might take extra risks knowing that the technology is there as a safety net? Or is learning the technology just part of learning to drive?

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