To Cruise or not to Cruise?

Cruise control can help to improve fuel efficiency by maintaining the same speed and can also reduce the chances of a driver speeding inadvertently.

However, it can be dangerous if drivers do not know how to use it correctly and when to use it.

Fatigue is frequently cited in many accident investigation reports as a contributing factor in vehicle crashes, often due to lack of rest stops or inadequate sleep.  The use of cruise control may be adding to the effects of driver fatigue resulting in reduced vehicle control.

Reduced situational awareness while using Cruise control.

Independent studies in the USA and France evaluated the impact of the use of cruise control on driving behaviours. The Vinci Autoroutes in France, in conjunction with the University of Strasbourg, evaluated the effect of conventional cruise control on driver behaviours. The Federal Highway Administration in the United States conducted a human factors study on the use of adaptive cruise control. shown to the right. These studies concluded that the use of these types of cruise control systems significantly increased reaction times and decreased situational awareness relating to;

1.       Delayed perception of an event

2.       Delayed processing and interpreting the event

3.       Delayed selection of the response

4.       Delayed decision to take action

5.       Delayed initiation of the response

Conventional Cruise Control

The original design of conventional cruise control systems provided the driver with the ability to maintain a static speed for the vehicle under all operating conditions up to the vehicle’s capabilities. The driver must intervene when road, traffic or weather conditions change and determine when it is safe to use or disengage the system.

Conventional cruise control systems have been in place on commercial motor vehicles for more than 40 years, and during this time, governments and public safety organizations continue to investigate the risks and benefits of using these systems.

Adaptive Cruise Control

The next generation of cruise control is the adaptive cruise control which, under normal operating conditions can slow the vehicle or warn the driver of an encroachment into the space cushion ahead.

This system provides one level of warning; however, the driver must still decide when conditions change for the road, traffic or weather and determine when it is safe to use the system.

The Federal Highway Administration Human Factors Analysis study in 2013 evaluated the effects of using the more advanced type of cruise control, known as “Adaptive Cruise Control,” on reaction time and situational awareness when driving. Adaptive Cruise Control was expected to enable drivers to spend more time observing for driving hazards, however the study concluded that situational awareness and rapid response deteriorated due to drivers taking on additional non-driving related tasks inside the vehicle.

Pros of Using Cruise Control

·       Reduced strain on the right leg

·       More consistent speed control and less likely to inadvertently drive above the speed limit

·       Less speed fluctuation improves fuel mileage

Cons of Using Cruise Control

·       Reduced situational awareness

·       Decrease in EEMG brain wave activity

·       Increased driver fatigue

·       Reduction in eye movement

·       Increase in distracted driving

·       Reduced reaction time

·       Increased stopping distances

·       Reduced directional control

·       Reduced space cushion

·       Increased risk of hydroplaning on wet pavement or snow/ice

·       Speed modulation ability is reduced

Adaptive Cruise Control decreases situational awareness and response times due to drivers taking on additional non-driving related tasks inside the vehicle.

Source June 2016 White Paper on Cruise Control by Michael Davis CSP, ARM. Senior Vice President Risk Control Services.

 

Best Practice use of Cruise Control

Only Cruise On The Straight

Driving safely on corners requires a great deal of skill relating to braking and accelerating. It is therefore not appropriate - and highly dangerous – to use cruise control on winding roads. Instead, the system should only be used on long, straight journeys.

Take Over The Controls In Traffic

Cruise control must not be used on roads with heavy traffic where it is likely that you will need to adjust your speed regularly.

Don’t Cruise Up Or Down Hill

Cruise control on hills is hazardous. When driving on hills it is best to control your speed using the accelerator and brake. This is because cruise control may not accelerate your vehicle properly up a hill, making it move dangerously slowly. Similarly, if you use cruise control down a hill the gradient may cause your vehicle to speed up faster than the cruise control setting, possibly leading to loss of control. It is much safer to control speed manually in these conditions.

Stick To A Safe Speed

You must only engage the cruise control system when travelling at a safe speed. Usually, the system can only be operated at speeds over approximately 30 mph / 48 kph, but you should make sure that the speed you set does not exceed the legal speed limit and is appropriate for the conditions.

Stay Alert

When using cruise control you need to remember that you are still in control of the vehicle’s steering and braking. A false sense of security can lead to lack of attention and collisions.

Make sure to:

• Stay alert.

• Keep your brain engaged in driving.

• Scan the road ahead for hazards.

Cancel When Not In Use

Turn cruise control off completely when not in use rather than simply disengaging the system with the brakes. This will prevent you from re-engaging the system by accident.

Don’t Rest Your Foot

During cruise control your foot is able to take a rest from operating the accelerator - but you must keep it ready for use. Don’t allow your leg to move far from the pedal as you may need to take over the controls suddenly.

Watch The Weather

Don’t use cruise control when the road is wet or slippery. If your wheels begin to skid while the system is maintaining the acceleration of your vehicle this could cause you to lose wheel traction and control of the vehicle. If you do step on the brake or deactivate cruise control the change in speed could also cause the wheels to slip and skid out of control.

Courtesy of eDriving, Inc  2018

Distractions

Crashes as a result of driver distraction can lead to deaths, as well as serious life-threatening injuries.

There are three types of distractions:

·       Physical – taking your hands off the steering wheel or eyes off the road.

·       Cognitive – taking your mind off driving by thinking of more than one thing at once.

·       Emotional - engaging with other people or tasks on an emotional level resulting in physically narrowing peripheral vision and disrupting vehicle control.

Using a Mobile/smartphone whilst driving is one of the highest causes (inside the vehicle) of driver distraction crashes

In the Auckland region between 2013-2017 there were 236 serious injuries to drivers who had their attention diverted, as well as 23 deaths.

Using your mobile phone while driving impairs your driving performance in several ways:

·       Slower reaction time especially when braking.

·       Reduced peripheral vision.

·       Impaired ability to stay in the correct lane.

·       Shorter following distances.

Don’t be tempted to use a hand held mobile phone in the car. In addition to the risks to yourself and others, it is against the law and you risk and $80 penalty fine and 20 demerit points.

Using a mobile phone while driving makes drivers take their eyes off the road, their hands off the steering wheel and their minds off the road. A driver is 23 times more likely to be involved in a crash when texting on a mobile phone and driving.  ( Source NZTA)

 

Tyres

The recent storms are a good reminder.  One minute it’s fine the next we are in a downpour or worse! 

Changing weather patterns impact on drivers and journeys reminding us that our vehicles need to be fit for the road with adequate tread depth to cope with surface water or worse.  New tyres have tread patterns that will pump up to 9 litres of water a second, older worn tyres will be much less!  This performance can affect safety if drivers don’t slowdown in wet conditions. 

If a vehicle is going too fast it will aquaplane resulting in loss of steering and control, outcomes can vary but avoiding this is relatively easy, slowing down, driving to the conditions by being aware of how good your tyres are.

Almost every course we run we come across underinflated tyres and near bald tyres, drivers need to take more responsibility but so do employers need to help.  If staff are unsure of the correct tyre pressures, then check this online tool.  Or make them aware of what are correct pressures for their vehicles.

https://www.energywise.govt.nz/tools/tyre-pressure/#

We explain the basics of vehicle tyre maintenance on our Level 1 course, and the reasons why it is so important.  It’s not what every driver wants to hear, but it is what every driver needs to know!

Why speed matters!

The severity of injuries resulting from a crash is directly related to how fast vehicles were travelling before the crash – even if they were under the speed limit.

When a vehicle crashes, it undergoes a rapid change of speed, but the occupants keep moving at the vehicle’s previous speed until stopped. The faster the speed at which the human body must absorb the energy released in the crash, the greater the severity of the resulting injury.

Your speed also dictates what happens if you hit another vehicle or person. 

For example, if a pedestrian steps out in front of you and you take one second to react:

  • Driving at 50km/h, you need at least 27m to stop
  • Driving at 60km/h, you need at least 36m to stop.

The probability that the pedestrian will die increases rapidly with relatively small increases in speed.

For example, a pedestrian struck by a vehicle:

  • at 40km/h has a 70% chance of survival
  • at 45km/h has a 50% chance of survival.

For a child or an elderly person, the odds are much worse.

Our Defensive Driver training helps protect the driver by increasing their skills and awareness of their capabilities and potentially reduces the risks for others involved in accidents.