As exciting as vehicle safety technology seems, Canadians aren’t quite ready to rely on automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warnings, and other tech enhancements in their cars.
A study published by Desjardins Insurance and conducted by Ad Hoc Research revealed that almost half of Canadian drivers have second thoughts about the usefulness of such systems. Though 51% of the 3,050 respondents said that these safety features are needed to make roads safer, 48% of drivers think that vehicle safety technologies pose a risk to road safety. Nearly half of the drivers (46%) also believe that Canadians are over-reliant on vehicle safety technologies.
The findings are synonymous with a typical Canadian attitude, which is to be cautious, says one leader.
“And I think they’re smart to be cautious,” added Joe Daly, communications officer for Desjardins. “The technology clearly is helping to reduce accidents and save lives, but it’s not a panacea. You can still have an accident if you’re going fast, if you’re not paying attention. So what we got out of it is, yes, it’s good technology, but you have to be cautious with it. You can’t become overconfident with it.”
In a market like Ontario where there are many big cities and lots of traffic, you would assume that people would be more supportive of the technology. However, Desjardins found that still, a lot of people in the province were skeptical. Part of the problem is the advertising around the tech, explained Daly.
“You see more and more of the ads hyping the technology, saying that with the back-up camera, the little kid will run [behind the car], but it’ll stop. If you spill your coffee and you look down, the brakes will stop before going and hitting that little girl at the street corner,” said Daly. “The ads are making people overconfident and there’s a need to be more like the pharmaceutical ads, where you know that yes, this can do this, but it has side effects. The ads should be saying, ‘Yes, these can help you drive safer, but you can’t disregard having your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road in front of you.’”
The Desjardins survey also found that most drivers (80%) said there should be more education on how to use safety features in vehicles. Daly knows first-hand how daunting it can be to drive a car equipped with this technology, if you’ve never had experience with it.
“I don’t have any of these safety systems [in my car], but I rented a car that did have all these safety systems. There was no description of how they work or what they do. Suddenly, I had all these things beeping and thought, ‘Oh, well, that’s lane departure,’” said Daly, adding that car manufacturers and dealers have a role to play in informing consumers about this technology and its implications for driving.
While insurance companies can likewise play a part in keeping people informed – via educational videos on their websites, for example – insurance professionals don’t often get into conversations about how to use safety technology with their insureds, though Daly says this is something to consider.
“We could have that discussion with them that even though you have the safety systems, you can’t not pay attention. You can’t pick up your phone because you think the car is mostly driving itself – it’s not. You have to be there. You have to be in control,” he told Insurance Business. “We should emphasize to the agents and brokers that they should have that conversation. And when they’re talking about rates going up, maybe reminding people that you may have safety systems in your cars, but maybe you’re picking up your phone when you shouldn’t. I’m sure people are more likely to pick up their phone if they think their car will take care of whatever accident may happen, and it won’t in every case.”