Don’t Let Your Car Safety Tech Become a Dangerous Crutch

Volvo Xc90 City Safety


Never underestimate old fashioned safety – your eyes.

The amount of technology in new cars increases every year and much of it is related to keeping us safe. Lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring, and forward collision alerts are just a few of the features that make it safer for us to drive, but they shouldn’t be seen as a replacement for using our own eyes.

According to a recent AAA study, the systems designed to protect us have the potential to become a crutch that could have us missing what we might see with our eyes. Blind spot monitoring and lane departure warning systems in particular can give us a false sense of security that could cause an accident.

These safety systems do often keep us from getting into accidents and likely most of us who have driven cars equipped with these features have had them warn us of something we didn’t see. They do improve our safety and prevent accidents, but the problem comes when we start relying on them to do the job all the time rather than using our own eyes. They can’t always see and predict what’s about to happen on the road.

The study noted that blind-spot monitoring systems had a hard time seeing fast moving vehicles like what you’d encounter merging onto a highway and that they detected motorcycles an average of 26 percent later than cars. Lane departure systems had trouble when road markings were faded and worn or when they were in construction zones and intersections.

Car Safety

Volvo’s City Safety technology uses auto braking to slow or stop the car if a collision is imminent.

Modern technology + attentive driving =  road safety

Does this mean the systems don’t work or that you shouldn’t use them to help you on the road? Absolutely not. You do get valuable information about things you might otherwise miss, but we need to be careful that we look at them as a backup to the safe driving practices we all learned back in driver’s ed.

First, it’s important to understand how your car’s system works and how it will notify you of a problem. It’s usually an audio or visual cue or some combination of the two, but this varies from car to car. Especially if you’re taking a rental car this holiday season, make sure you know how your rental will relay its warnings.

Second, make sure that your first line of defense is keeping your attention on the road. Don’t expect these safety systems to do the job of driving. Make sure you’re always looking for cars that could be hiding in your blind spot and if you’re having trouble staying in your lane due to bad weather or because you’re tired, then pull over someplace safe and take a break.

Car safety technology saves lives and is something that makes us all safer on the roads, but it’s no replacement for attentive driving.

Nicole Wakelin contributes to The Boston Globe, CarGurus, BestRide, and Boldride, and she hosts her own blog,, where... More about Nicole Wakelin