It takes two to tango, and so it does to ensure safer driving.
Safety features in modern cars are plentiful and often astound with what they do or are supposed to do. Should you ignore these or press them beyond their capacity or design purpose, they may well not offer you the safety they promised.
Often, various safety features work in conjunction in order to improve their efficiency, and it is thus important that you understand these relationships.
Seatbelts and airbags
The CEO of MasterDrive, Eugene Herbert, said, “Airbags cannot function properly without seatbelts. In most cars with airbags, it will likely still deploy in a crash. As a result, the airbag will collide with you at approximately 300km/h without a safety belt to reduce this impact.
“Newer cars, particularly in first-world countries, are investigating and experimenting with technology that deactivates airbags if the car senses a seatbelt hasn’t been clicked in. It is also very difficult to drive without a seatbelt due to the warning signals, and some cars even prevent starting without a seatbelt. This, however, is reserved for higher-end vehicles and people also, unfortunately, find ways around this. Thus, not using a seatbelt can either make your airbags a hazard or remove their use altogether.”
Adaptive cruise control and speed
Adaptive cruise control (ACC) is still fairly new technology in South Africa. “ACC is a more enhanced version of cruise control that uses sensors to calculate and maintain a preselected following distance from vehicles ahead of you. It removes the need to continuously break and then reset the system.
“Recent studies, however, found that drivers tend to speed more when using it as they set their speeds higher. This has resulted in a 10% higher risk of being in a fatal crash when using ACC, because they are speeding. Thus, ACC both removes irritation of cruise control and can provide extra safety benefits. This does not, however, remove the danger of speeding. MasterDrive does not, in particular, endorse or recommend the use of ACC in wet weather.”
Autonomous technology and the environment
Features such as autonomous emergency braking (AEB) are one of the first steps moving toward autonomous driving. “It’s newness, however, can make it an unreliable safety feature if you don’t understand how it works. Firstly, not all AEB is equal. Some only work at low speeds in some cars and at all speeds in others. Don’t assume that all AEB will work the same. Familiarise yourself with what your car has and how it works.
Additionally, autonomous driving is likely to take some time to pick up in South Africa as it is dependent on clear road markings among other requirements. Unclear road markings could make autonomous driving impossible. It can also result in sensors picking up objects that pose no risk, such as leaves, and force your car into a sudden and often extreme emergency braking. Granted, it will warn you, but short of getting out and dusting off the road, it can result in uncomfortable situations. It is too soon to rely on autonomous driving 100%. There is still much advancement to be seen.”
Quite seldom do safety features work in isolation. “It is essential to understand every safety feature your car has and what is needed for it to work properly, and more importantly for it to not become a hazard,” said Herbert.