National Survey ranks 11 Car Technology Features Drivers Disable Most and Why

Today’s cars are safer than ever thanks to advanced engineering and technology, but some drivers intentionally turn off or disable features that could help them avoid crashes. Erie Insurance commissioned a national survey to find out which features drivers disable the most and why. The survey, which was limited to drivers whose cars were model year 2016 or later, asked if they had ever turned off or disabled any of 11 features commonly available in newer vehicles.

“Drivers said their most common reasons for turning off or disabling features is that they find them annoying or distracting,” said Jon Bloom, vice president of personal auto, Erie Insurance. Bloom said while automakers are always working to refine and improve features, there also may be cases when it’s more a matter of learning how the feature works and getting used to it. “Ideally as features improve and drivers get more comfortable with them, using them will become second-nature the way seatbelts are today. The payoff could be huge in terms of reducing crashes and saving lives.”

In fact, some newer car features are dramatically decreasing crashes. For example, an analysis by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) found that forward collision warning combined with automated emergency braking cuts front-to-rear crashes with injuries by more than half (56%). But the Erie Insurance survey found that, of the drivers whose vehicles have these features, 11% turn off forward collision warning and 17% turn off automated emergency braking.

Interestingly, the two features drivers were most likely to say they disabled were ones designed to enhance their comfort and convenience. The largest percentage of drivers (30%) said they had not used adaptive cruise control, which keeps a vehicle a specific distance from the car in front of it by applying the brakes if it gets too close. The most cited reason for not using this feature was “I want to control the vehicle, not have the vehicle control itself.”

The second most disabled feature was lane keeping assist, which helps prevent the car from straying across lane markings by automatically making light braking or minor steering adjustments. Almost a quarter of drivers (23%) said they turned off lane keeping assist, and the most cited reason was that they found the feature annoying. One respondent said the feature doesn’t work well [because] it hugs the lines too closely and another said it reduces the car’s fuel economy.

Below is the list of features drivers were asked about ranked by the percentage of people who said they had turned off or disabled it. Since drivers called every feature they had disabled annoying and/or distracting, additional reasons other than those two are also listed:

Feature

% Who Have
Turned It
Off/Disabled
It

In Addition to Annoying and/or Distracting, Other Reason(s)
for Turning It Off/Disabling It

Adaptive cruise control

30%

I want to control the vehicle, not have the vehicle control itself

Lane keeping assist

23%

I want to control the vehicle, not have the vehicle control itself

It is not helpful

Driver attention monitor 

22%

It sends too many false alarms

Lane departure warning

21%

It is not helpful

It sends too many false alarms

Automated emergency braking

17%

I don’t trust it

I want to control the vehicle, not have the vehicle control itself

Traffic sign recognition 

14%

It is not helpful

I had a bad experience with it

Forward collision warning

11%

It sends too many false alarms

Pedestrian detection

11%

It is not helpful
I want to control the vehicle, not have the vehicle control itself

Blind-spot monitoring

9%

I want to control the vehicle, not have the vehicle control itself
It is not helpful

I don’t trust it

Rear cross traffic alert

9%

It is not helpful
I don’t trust it

It sends too many false alarms

Backup camera

6%

I had a bad experience with it
I don’t trust it

Drivers were also asked whether they would want each feature if they were buying another vehicle today. Adaptive cruise control was the least popular feature by far, with more than a third of drivers (35%) saying they definitely would not want it. The percentages of drivers who definitely wouldn’t want any of the other 10 features were all in the single digits.

In terms of how they learned to use the features in their vehicles, the largest percentage (38%) learned at the car dealership, a third (32%) figured it out while driving and 14% learned by reading the owner’s manual. Seventeen percent of the 18-24-year-olds learned at a driving school and smaller percentages read about it or watched videos online or learned from a friend or family member.