Consumers rate safety as a prime consideration when shopping for a new vehicle and auto makers are required by federal regulations to equip passenger vehicles with a wide array of safety technologies, and are constantly developing new ones. But there is a disconnect – fewer than one-third of Canadian consumers are familiar with the safety features on their vehicle.
Some manufacturers try to push their dealer sales personnel to explain these features at the time of purchase; some even offer special after-sale classes. But few salespeople are fully knowledgeable about these items, let alone able to explain them in an understandable way, and few consumers read the owners manual.
In an attempt to fill the gap between what equipment is on modern cars and understanding how it works, the Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF) and the Toyota Canada Foundation have developed Brain on Board (brainonboard.ca), a website to help Canadian car buyers understand safety technologies and safe driving practices.
TIRF is an not-for-profit research organization. The idea for Brain on Board resulted from a national research initiative conducted by TIRF called Vehicle Safety Features: Knowledge, Perceptions and Driving Habits, which involved more than 2,500 Canadians who were asked 120 questions to determine their knowledge and perceptions about vehicle safety features and their use.
The study determined that safety (15.6 per cent) is the second-most-important consideration when buying a vehicle, behind price (29 per cent) and ahead of fuel consumption (13.2 per cent) and reliability (6.1 per cent).
The study found that Canadians consider themselves safe drivers. When asked to rate their driving practices, the majority gave themselves an eight out of 10. They gave “other” drivers a five. TIRF president and CEO Robyn Robertson says this leads to a “false belief that the risk of driver safety sits with ‘others’ and not with ‘me.’“
Yet the study found that most Canadians are not familiar with the majority of safety features other than ABS and traction control. Fewer than one-third were familiar with features such as adaptive headlights and collision warning systems, but the majority said they would use such features if their vehicle had them.
Robertson says it is important that drivers take time to understand how their vehicles work. “
At the end of the day, it is a combination of the car’s features and having an alert and skilled driver behind the wheel that gives us the best chance to drive safety.”
A visit to brainonboard.ca is a quick, easy way to learn a lot. Why does the ABS system make that noise? How does electronic stability control help keep your car on the road? The section on safety features is broken into active (help you avoid a crash) and passive (help you survive a crash) sections, explaining each in simple-to-understand terms.
There is a section on driver assistance technologies like active cruise control and lane departure warning systems, an explanation of adaptive headlights and discussion of new technologies under development. Many of the explanations include video.
Deeper into the program, you will find information about human factors such as speed, distracted driving, fatigue and drinking and driving. There is also a section on myths and misconceptions.
Brainonboard.ca is well-designed and presented. Thanks to the research and knowledge from TIRF and the resources and support of Toyota, it is an informative and thorough resource for drivers of all ages and abilities.