Results from a new public opinion poll by the Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF) show that a majority of Canadian drivers can benefit from more knowledge about the many vehicle safety features rapidly becoming standard on new vehicles across the automotive industry. The poll, conducted over the course of November 2011 to January 2012, explored a range of issues including familiarity with different safety features, perceptions about their use, and the effects of these features on driving.
When asked about the types of vehicle safety features currently available on the market including electronic stability control (ESC), traction control (TC), electronic brake-force distribution (EBFD), anti-lock brake systems (ABS), brake assist (BA), brake override, and adaptive headlights, on average, less than one-third of Canadians said that they were aware of these features. A majority of drivers (80.4%) were familiar with ABS; traction control was second with 53.5% of Canadians saying they know of this technology.
“To some extent, it is not unusual that Canadians have much greater familiarity with ABS as it has been widely available for almost 30 years, unlike newer technologies such as lane departure warning systems which have only become available in the last ten years”, explains Robyn Robertson, TIRF President and CEO. “It is important that we continue to increase awareness of the availability and use of these features among drivers as they enter the market, to help keep drivers safe on our roads.”
The good news is that, although knowledge of these safety features seems to be relatively low among Canadians, more than half of those polled agreed that these safety features would be easy to use and that they would use them if their vehicle had them. This is encouraging as studies have shown that safety features prevent crashes and injuries when used alongside safe driving practices.
“Given that many drivers view themselves as a safer driver than the average Canadian, efforts to address this knowledge gap are important. Increased awareness of these features and how they work can also reinforce the message that safety features do not discount the need for drivers to continue to rely on those safe driving behaviours that many first learned well before these safety features became available,” notes Robertson.
The poll is the first step in the development of a research-based national education program on vehicle safety features. The program, sponsored by The Toyota Canada Foundation, will use results from the poll along with input from road users to create a program aimed at informing the public of important vehicle safety features, their respective benefits, and ways in which the features work in conjunction with safe driving practices in the variable road conditions that Canadian drivers can experience seasonally across Canada.
“With a combined goal to reduce deaths and injuries, we are confident that Canadian drivers will marry an increased understanding of safety technologies with smarter driving habits,” said Stephen Beatty, Managing Director, Toyota Canada Inc. “Together we’re using sound research to build a campaign to encourage smarter driving habits across the country.”