In a recent study, the IIHS discovered a startling truth. On the second-hand market, drivers are simply unaware of their car’s active safety features. This sobering discovery means that all of the new safety features automakers and legislators have continued to develop get used less as cars pass down the marketplace. The IIHS’s study uncovered some very interesting truths about driver education when purchasing a car, which is especially important as more buyers flock to the used market during this time of limited new car supply.

The IIHS conducted a study that consisted of 750 car owners with newer models from the 2016 to 2019 model year. 402 owners bought their cars new while 362 bought theirs on the used market. According to their study, “Used car buyers were substantially less likely than new car buyers to know about the advanced driver assistance features present on their vehicles,” says IIHS Senior Research Scientist Ian Reagan, the author of the study. “They were also less likely to be able to describe how those features work, and they had less trust in them. That could translate into less frequent use, causing crash reductions from these systems to wane.”

So why are used car buyers less likely to understand the active safety features in their second-hand cars? Based on data it comes down to education and interest. When purchasing a used car from a multi-OEM dealership the salesperson may not have all of the information to properly train customers. Furthermore, if shoppers are at a used car look seeking a good deal then they most likely haven’t conducted the same level of research on a specific model as new car shoppers.

This unique combination of education and desire could affect the lives of both owners and others on the road. According to IIHS, “automated emergency braking (AEB) reduces police-reported front-to-rear crashes by 50 percent. Lane departure warning reduces single-vehicle, sideswipe and head-on crash by 11 percent, and blind-spot warning reduces lane-change crashes by 14 percent.” These numbers mean nothing if owners are not aware of the active safety items on their cars.

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