Drivers Would Welcome Anti-Speeding Tech, Survey Shows

June 12, 2024
About half of drivers admit to driving at least 15 mph over the limit in the past month.

More than 60% of drivers would find it acceptable if their vehicle provided an audible and visual warning when they exceeded the posted speed limit, according to a press release on a new survey from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

Half of the surveyed drivers expressed openness to vehicular technology that either increases resistance on the accelerator pedal or autonomously regulates speed.

“These findings are exciting because they suggest American drivers are willing to change how they drive to make our roads safer,” IIHS President David Harkey said. “The conventional wisdom has always been that speed-restricting technology would never fly in our car-centric culture.”

Speeding contributes to more than a quarter of traffic fatalities in the U.S., with over 12,000 deaths in 2022, the most recent year with available data. Despite this, about half of drivers confess to exceeding the speed limit by at least 15 mph in the past month, as reported by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

IIHS Senior Research Scientist Ian Reagan, who orchestrated the survey on intelligent speed assistance (ISA), stated, “We can no longer pretend this is an unsolvable problem.” He elaborated, “With the technologies we have now, we could stop virtually all speeding and eliminate speeding tickets to boot. Instead, we seem to be going the opposite direction, with adaptive cruise control and partial automation systems that allow drivers to peg their speed at 90 mph if they want.”

Traditional speed limiters, which have been in use for some time, only permit a single maximum setting. This limitation means that fleet operators and others who utilize them must set the maximum at highway speeds, rendering them ineffective on most U.S. roads.

ISA systems, by contrast, employ GPS and a speed limit database, occasionally supplemented by cameras that read posted signs, to adjust to the actual speed limit. The simple speed limit icon displayed in navigation apps like Apple Maps, Google Maps, and Waze represents a basic form of ISA. Waze and some other apps also include additional ISA functionalities.

More sophisticated ISA systems either sound a warning or flash an alert when the driver surpasses the speed limit, or they do so by a specific margin. Some systems provide feedback through the accelerator pedal, while others restrict engine power to prevent excessive speed.

Starting next month, the European Union will mandate that all new vehicles come equipped with ISA systems capable of issuing audible or visual warnings, though drivers will have the option to deactivate these systems.

To further understand American drivers’ attitudes towards ISA, Reagan surveyed 1,802 drivers. The survey divided drivers into three groups, each queried about different ISA functionalities: advisory warnings, accelerator resistance, and speed restriction upon exceeding the speed limit.

The concept of “acceptability” in the survey context refers to the likelihood of individuals choosing to use a feature or product they have never experienced before. This metric is derived from various responses rather than a singular yes-or-no question. Any ISA implementation in the U.S. would likely allow drivers to disable the feature, thus its benefits hinge on public acceptability.

The survey’s outcomes were promising. Regardless of the group, over 80% of drivers concurred that they would prefer a feature displaying the current speed limit. Additionally, more than 70% favored a subtle tone to signal speed limit changes.

Advisory systems were preferred over interventionist ones. Nearly 60% of drivers in the advisory group approved of the ISA system activating automatically with each trip, compared to 51% in the accelerator-feedback group and 48% in the speed-limiter group. Similar proportions supported the idea of mandatory ISA in all new cars.

Approximately 70% of drivers across all groups expressed interest in ISA for their next vehicle if it resulted in reduced insurance premiums for adherence to speed limits.

The survey also revealed that acceptability increased across all groups when the ISA intervention threshold was set at 10 mph over the speed limit, rather than 1-2 mph. Nearly 80% of the advisory group and over half of the other groups found this level of tolerance acceptable.

The EU’s standards are stricter, requiring warnings to commence when the vehicle’s speed matches the limit for six seconds and after 1.5 seconds of exceeding the limit by any amount. The survey suggests that a similar U.S. standard might lead to more drivers disabling the feature.

Challenges identified by the survey include the likelihood that frequent speeders, who are 20% less inclined to accept ISA, might be the least likely to utilize it. However, both frequent and infrequent speeders indicated a similar propensity to keep the feature enabled if available in their vehicles.

A federal mandate could potentially mitigate resistance to ISA. Previous research indicates that drivers are concerned about irritating other motorists by driving slowly, and the survey showed greater acceptability for ISA if most other vehicles were similarly equipped.

U.S. regulators could enhance the feature’s appeal and usage by incorporating design elements not required by the EU, such as higher tolerance on interstates and stricter thresholds in pedestrian-heavy zones.

Harkey concluded, “This technology enables nuanced interventions that were never possible in the past. The next challenge is to encourage automakers and drivers to embrace it so we can begin saving lives.”

About the Author

FenderBender Staff Reporters

The FenderBender staff reporters have a combined two-plus decades of journalism and collision repair experience.

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