Do people know how safety technology works?

Automotive engineers have upped the ante when it comes to developing new safety technologies in recent years, but are fleet managers aware of exactly what they are and how they function?

According to new research, most people don't. While seat belts and air bags are so well established they've been standard equipment on new cars for decades, some of the more complicated technologies debuted recently are causing confusion. 

The study was pioneered by the University of Iowa Transportation and Vehicle Safety Research Division and found knowledge in these areas is lacking noticeably. The study revealed the majority of the 2,000 drivers it surveyed had usually heard of at least one of the nine technologies they were queried on. However, many others couldn't explain how they worked or what the systems sought to achieve. 

The highest level of confusion centred around adaptive cruise control, with nearly two-thirds (65.2 per cent) of respondents indicating they were uncertain about what it is. These systems allow vehicles to maintain a constant speed and following distance - essential in green cars as it makes for smoother driving. 

In some cases, it appears that this is simply due to drivers being used to older cars and therefore unfamiliar with recent advancements. The university found that motorists who owned vehicles from 2014 or later were much more likely to be familiar with this technology. 

Many recent safety technologies can take control of vehicles if they detect that a driver hasn't reacted in time, an event that startled 40 per cent of respondents. 

The survey coincides with research from the Australasian New Car Assessment Program, which reveals that 45 per cent of all fatal crashes are single-car incidents. Most of these recent technologies are designed to prevent accidents rather than protect drivers in a crash, meaning motorists should be aware of the driving techniques needed to get the most out of them.