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How to Improve Car Safety

May 20, 2010
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SANTA MONICA, CA - More than ever, car safety is top of mind for government, the auto industry and car shoppers. Edmunds.com, an online resource for automotive information, recommends that one focus of further discussion be driver education and training.

“Creating legislation and discussing technical solutions will fill gaps in the existing process, but they won’t comprehensively address the problems that have made recent headlines,” says Edmunds.com Chief Executive Officer Jeremy Anwyl. “On the occasions when driver error is a major factor in an accident, override systems and black boxes aren’t particularly useful.”

Driver error can often be attributed to a lack of familiarity with new technology.

“Cars have become infinitely more complicated over the decades, but it is still rare to find someone who reads the owners’ manual. Dealers, serving on the front lines of customer relationships, have a great opportunity to demonstrate new features and ensure drivers are fully aware of their vehicles’ capabilities,” said Anwyl. “The experience of taking delivery of a new car could be transformed to everyone’s benefit.” It is easy to find examples of relatively new technology – and some misunderstood basics – worthy of more communication:

As push-button starters become more prevalent, it will make sense for the industry to standardize the system’s functionality and thoroughly educate the public on the action required to make an emergency stop. “Multiple jabs, probably three, seem best to us because repeated poking of a recalcitrant device is a natural human reaction. Think elevators, crosswalks and little brothers,” says Dan Edmunds, who serves as Edmunds.com director of vehicle testing.

During recent unintended acceleration incidents, some drivers expressed fear of putting the car into neutral. In other cases, some drivers who have put their cars into neutral have been alarmed by the sound of a racing engine that shifting to "N" appropriately causes. They often shift back to “drive” to avoid the noise and in the process inadvertently put themselves back in harm's way.

Distracted driving is one of the most dangerous examples of driver error. No one thinks that they will cause a collision by texting while driving, but it is happening to more and more people every day – and taking lives in the process.

Anti-lock brakes have become the norm in new cars, but not every driver realizes that when they work they noisily vibrate the brakes and require uninterrupted, firm pressure.

Anyone who has ever read statistics about teenage drivers should support the implementation of more rigorous driving instruction and testing. Obtaining a driver’s license in most industrialized nations is far more challenging than it is in the United States.

“Given the consequences, everyone should be doing whatever they can to make our roads safer,” says Anwyl. “Enhanced driver training should be embraced by drivers, automakers, dealers, insurance companies, legislators and other affected groups – if it is positioned correctly.”

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