On any given day, motorists take to the roadways all over the United States to travel from point A to point B. In fact, the Federal Highway Administration has said that drivers in SUVs, minivans, cars, and trucks traveled as much as 3.22 trillion miles in 2016 alone. That is an increase of 2.8 percent from 2015. Moreover, the administration also estimates that there have been as many as 185 million driver licenses handed out in this country since 1998.
With so many cars traveling this nation's roads at any given time, vehicle incidents have also become somewhat unavoidable. Even worse, these incidents can also become more and more dangerous. In fact, according to the Association for Safe International Road Travel, there are as many as 1.3 million fatalities occurring in the U.S. as a result of road crashes. That amounts to an average of 3,287 road fatalities every single day.
Because of this, carmakers around the world have decided to do what they can to make their vehicles a lot safer for motorists. They did this by introducing safety features that work to prevent road crashes and also assist drivers in operating their vehicle much more safely. In the beginning, such safety features were limited to the likes of seat belts, electronic stability control systems, and airbags.
Today, technology has made it possible for carmakers to come out with safety features that remain active and engaged so long as you are driving. The problem, however, is that certain features can end up causing problems while on the road. In fact, they can even make your driving more dangerous.
Check out these safety features so you can see what we mean.
20 Automatic Transmissions
Especially today, a lot of car models now come with an automatic transmission. In fact, there are certain car models that don’t even offer a manual transmission model anymore. Essentially, an automatic transmission presents a convenient way of driving. Put the gear in drive and the car starts to move instantly.
If you need to back up, all you have to do is put the gear in reverse.
And if you need to come to a stop on the road, you just have to brake, then shift the gear to neutral or park. As easy to use as this might be, however, there are times when an automatic transmission may pose a safety problem. In fact, according to a report from the National Motorists Association, there are automatic transmissions that instantly shift the car to park while you are reversing if it senses that one of the doors is ajar. This sudden stop can cause a collision with a nearby vehicle whose driver didn’t anticipate your vehicle stopping midway.
19 Backup Buzzer
Especially when you are using an automatic transmission, it is possible for a driver to forget that they have already put the gear shifter on reverse. And if this happens, there is a risk of the car unintentionally moving backward once the brake is released.
To avoid this, car manufacturers have decided to provide drivers with an audible alert to remind them that their gear is on reverse.
This alert often comes in the form of a buzzer which does not stop sounding off until you put the car back on park or drive mode. And while this alert can certainly be helpful, there are car models with backup buzzers that are excessively loud. Because of this, a driver can end up becoming distracted by the noise.
18 Seat Belt Sensor
In the world of motoring today, installing seat belts inside car models is already mandatory. After all, seat belts can absolutely save lives—especially in the event of a car collision. In fact, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, nearly 15,000 lives in the United States were saved in 2016. Moreover, the organization also added, “Nearly 2,500 more lives would have been saved if everyone had buckled up.”
Today’s car seats are fitted with a seat belt sensor. Using this, the car displays an alert or warning if a driver or passenger is not buckled up. While this may be extremely helpful, it can also pose problems since an item that you have placed in the seat can be detected as another passenger. Because of this, the warning would keep going off, providing the driver with an unnecessary distraction.
17 Infotainment System
Infotainment systems have been constantly updated to make sure that everyone’s drive can be as easy and convenient as possible. In fact, today’s infotainment systems allow you to access more than just music: you can listen to your favorite e-book, find out the latest news, and even access your text messages and emails. Because of all these features, however, drivers tend to get a lot more distracted while on the road.
According to a study conducted by the American Automobile Association (AAA), drivers who are utilizing their infotainment in-vehicle technologies tend to be distracted for more than 40 seconds while they are driving. Moreover, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety executive director, Dr. David Yang, also remarked, “When an in-vehicle technology is not properly designed, simple tasks for drivers can become complicated and require more effort from drivers to complete.”
16 Automatic Volume Control
Today, there are certain car models that come with a system which readily adjusts the volume inside the vehicle. For example, should the music or other sound playing in your car be sensed as too loud, the volume would automatically be reduced significantly. This type of safety feature can be helpful especially when the person driving in the car likes to play really loud music.
After all, when the music inside the car is quite loud, it becomes harder to tune in to what else is happening around you.
However, if you happen to be navigating a city or town using your navigation system, making the directions hard to hear can pose significant dangers. For starters, you might become distracted trying to get the volume back up before you get lost. In the process, you might cause a road incident with another vehicle or pedestrian.
15 Navigation System
Navigation systems onboard today’s cars are designed to make road travel easier and even more interesting. Especially if you have difficulties reading a map, a navigation system can just tell you where to turn so that you don’t have to get confused with directions anymore.
Nonetheless, a car’s navigation problem still poses safety issues. For starters, the system can give wrong directions due to outdated maps or satellite communication problems. Hence, you might end up driving for hours without knowing where to go.
Moreover, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety has also found in their research that programming one’s navigation is the “most distracting task.” In fact, this activity alone takes as much as 40 seconds for most drivers to complete. The organization also further explained, “When driving at 25 mph, a driver can travel the length of four football fields during the time it could take to enter a destination in navigation—all while distracted from the important task of driving.”
14 Road Sign Assist
Some of the newest car models today have a safety feature known as road sign assist. The goal of this driver assistance feature is to make sure that every road sign is promptly brought to the driver’s attention.
In the case of Toyota, it’s road sign assist feature works by utilizing a “forward-facing intelligent camera” that has been fitted into the car. According to the Japanese carmaker, this would “detect speed limit signs, stop signs, do not enter signs and yield signs, and display them on the MID.”
While getting pertinent information while you are driving is certainly helpful, having too much information can also be a bad thing. After all, having to take into account all of the signs being displayed to you can lead to driver distraction and cause you to slow down without warning or even veer off your lane.
13 Lane Tracing Assist
Today, it’s not just signs that your car’s cameras are keeping a lookout for. In fact, these cameras also carefully scan the road ahead and look for lines that serve as road markings. According to Toyota, its own lane tracing assist feature “uses the lines on the road and preceding vehicles to help keep the vehicle centered while also displaying the vehicle’s position on the MID screen.”
Moreover, the carmaker also explained, “The system was designed to reduce driver strain and increase convenience and benefit drivers most during traffic jams.” While this feature can certainly be helpful, it can still pose problems to car safety. This is because a driver might become too reliant on this feature and not practice driver alertness anymore.
12 Cruise Control
Cruise control is one car feature that a lot of car owners and car buyers seem to talk about these days. Simply put, this feature is designed to let your car “cruise” through roadways without you having to do much behind the wheel. That’s because once the cruise control feature is activated, the car would simply drive at a preset speed. Not only that, sometimes the car can also maintain a certain preset distance from the car in front of you.
And in case the car ahead starts to slow down, adaptive cruise control can detect this and slow down your car as well.
This might sound helpful. However, one study conducted by the VINCI Autoroutes Foundation for Responsible Driving suggested that it can also lead to more dangers behind the wheel. In fact, they found that features like cruise control lead to “longer reaction times” and “reduced control of vehicle direction.”
11 Traction Control
Traction control is a common safety feature among cars, which is designed to help the vehicle drive through slippery surfaces more safely. This way, a driver can avoid suffering a wheel slip where the tires spin out of control and the entire vehicle is in danger of colliding with another vehicle or object.
But while traction control can certainly be helpful in certain situations, it can also pose problems while you are driving. This is especially true if the one onboard your car is rather “sensitive” as is the case for the Toyota Prius. According to How Stuff Works, “The traction control system in a Toyota Prius is so sensitive that it'll brake hard in snow rather than fluttering the brakes to find traction. It allows no wheel spin and even shuts down power to the wheels.”
10 Blind Spot Detection
For years, blind spots have been a very significant source of danger for a lot of motorists. After all, when you cannot see an approaching vehicle, pedestrian or object, it becomes quite hard to avoid them. This is especially true if the vehicle is backing up.
Because of this, carmakers have designed to provide its current vehicle models with blind spot detection features. By utilizing sensors around the vehicle, the car would immediately alert you if there is another car or pedestrian in your blind spot so that you can avoid coming into contact with them. The problem with this, however, is that it can encourage the driver to be less alert while driving. This, in turn, can lead to accidents on the road.
9 Automatic High Beams
Today’s carmakers have decided to provide an automatic high beams safety feature to make sure you don’t end up blinding an incoming driver because you are on high beams. Typically, this system relies on an in-vehicle camera that can readily detect headlights from oncoming vehicles as well as taillights from the preceding vehicles. In response to this, the headlights would automatically toggle between the high and low beams.
While you may think that this is convenient, it might also cause some serious problems. This is simply because with this feature, the control of the high beams is not with the driver anymore. As someone has pointed out on the forum Tesla Motors Club, “I'm not happy with the auto high beam feature. I can't find a way to disable it in the menus. It can be dangerous to not have high beams turn on when I feel it is appropriate because the software overrules me.”
8 Lane Keep Assist
You may not realize it, but a lot of car accidents occur as a result of vehicle veering off their lane while on the road. To address this matter, various automakers decided to start putting in a lane departure warning system into their cars. This system is meant to alert you the moment your car has started an unintentional lane departure. In doing so, you are given the opportunity to correct your mistake and avoid a collision.
In fact, according to Consumer Reports, nearly 85,000 car crashes would have been prevented in 2015 if all cars were equipped with this warning system.
On the other hand, a lane keep assist feature works to steer the car back on to the lane the moment it has detected an unintentional lane departure. The problem with this is that it can make the car impossible to control for the driver especially if he or she is trying to initiate an overtake or if the car is preparing to exit the freeway.
7 Traffic Jam Assist
Traffic jam assist is a fairly new safety feature. In fact, it is currently only available in a few vehicle models. In the case of Audi, the German carmaker has said that its traffic jam assist feature “can take over steering at speeds of up to 65 km/h (40.4 mph) on well-developed roads when traffic is congested.” Audi further explained, “The system uses the radar and ultrasound sensors as well as the front camera, guiding the car by gently adjusting the steering and following the traffic ahead within system limits. In doing so, the traffic-jam assist uses the lane markings and other vehicles on the road for orientation”
As convenient as this may sound, however, Audi has also warned that this feature can also reach “its system limit.” For instance, it stops working “when the traffic thins out or there is a sharp curve ahead.” However, the system might encourage the driver to be less alert so he or she may not be able to take over the car again in time.
6 Low-Speed Forward Automatic Braking
Low speed forward automatic braking safety feature is meant to help you avoid hitting the car in front of you because you applied the brakes too late. In fact, according to Chevrolet, “This feature can help prevent or reduce the severity of low-speed front-end collisions by applying the brakes or enhancing the driver’s braking.” By using a camera, this system would monitor the car directly in front of you and proceed to apply the brakes if the driver is not responding to an alert and a collision seems unavoidable.
The problem with this feature, however, is that prevents the driver from having complete control over the car. At the same time, a feature like this can also lead drivers to become less alert while on the road.
5 Front Pedestrian Braking
Front pedestrian braking is a safety feature that is designed to help avoid a collision with a pedestrian as much as possible. According to Chevrolet, its own front pedestrian braking system “can automatically apply the brakes to help reduce the collision’s severity or avoid the collision.”
This is particularly helpful in case a pedestrian suddenly decides to cross the road without checking if there are cars first.
However, what you need to remember is that the brakes can engage even if you don’t step on the pedal, giving you less control of the car. At the same time, it can also lead to the driver eventually becoming too dependent on the system.
4 Distance Control Assist
A distance control assist system is a safety feature that was designed to make sure your car is never too close to the one directly in front of you. In the case of Nissan, the Japanese carmaker said, “The system works following function based on the following distance and relative vehicle speed of both cars using a radar sensor installed in the front bumper.” Nissan also added, “The system applies the brakes only when the driver is not pressing the gas pedal.”
While this feature might certainly be helpful, it also can pose some problems for the safety of the driver and passengers. For starters, this feature suggests that the driver is not fully in control of the vehicle at all times. Even worse, this can also lead to less alertness by the driver who has become increasingly reliant on the feature.
The e-Pedal is a feature that changes the dynamics of driving a car significantly. According to Nissan, this system “allows the driver to start, accelerate, decelerate and stop using only the accelerator pedal.” Furthermore, the Japanese carmaker explained, “By using only one pedal, tasks such as: judging the distance between the car in front; decelerating and stopping when going downhill; and stopping for traffic lights, have been drastically simplified and become more convenient.”
The problem with this feature, however, is that the driver becomes no longer trained in driving the car ‘correctly’ by using both gas and brake pedals. Hence, their driving can lead to a serious road incident if they suddenly start driving a car that is not equipped with an e-Pedal.
2 Automatic-Locking Retractors
Automatic-locking retractors are a safety feature that is designed to help you from becoming more seriously injured in the event of a collision. According to Chrysler, the shoulder belt would become “automatically pre-locked” if this feature is engaged.
The idea here is to ensure that your seat belt is holding you as tight as possible in case you experience a car crash.
This way, you would remain secure in your seat and there is less chance that you would bump into anything in front of you. However, when seat belts hold you particularly tight in the middle of an impact, there is also a chance that you can experience bruising in your body. At the same time, with this feature on, it may become rather difficult to remove the seat belt and exit the vehicle as quickly as possible.
1 Safety Alert Seat
As we have said earlier, seat belts play a huge role in saving your life. This is especially true if you suddenly find yourself in a road incident.
Because of this, some carmakers have decided that they needed a more active role in reminding you to buckle up before you start to drive away. To make sure you don’t forget, some car models now come with a safety alert seat system. This is designed to trigger a vibration in your seat to prompt you to put your seatbelt on.
As helpful as this can be though, such a safety feature can pose serious problems for people who have certain conditions. For instance, if you are wearing a pacemaker, having vibrations in the seat can be dangerous.