Statement on Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) Study on Partial Automation and Driver Disengagement

  • November 19, 2020
150 150 Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, November 19, 2020
CONTACT: Pete Daniels / / 301-442-2249 (C)


Statement of Cathy Chase, President, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, on Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) Study on Partial Automation and Driver Disengagement

Findings underscore the need for new safety standards


A new study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) finds that drivers tend to disengage more frequently from the driving task as they develop trust in partial automation systems like adaptive cruise control (ACC) and lane centering assist (LCA).  This tendency, often referred to as automation complacency, has raised concerns among auto safety advocates and experts, including the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).

In a February 2020 crash investigation report, the NTSB called on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to develop safety standards for monitoring systems that could prevent crashes caused by driver disengagement, a recommendation that has not been acted on thus far.

Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates) applauds IIHS for studying this evolving road safety threat.  The findings also underscore the need to create minimum performance safety standards for advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) including ACC and LCA, an essential safeguard to help ensure that the technology performs as expected.  Moreover, proven safety technology should be standard equipment in all new vehicles and not sold as add-ons in luxury packages together with non-safety features such as heated seats or leather interiors.  Safety should be accessible to all consumers, not just those who can afford pricey upgrades or higher-end vehicles.

As NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt has stated, “There is not a vehicle currently available to US consumers that is self-driving,” yet technology that can take over more of the driving task is becoming more prevalent.  It is time for NHTSA to act with urgency on this glaring safety gap before more road users are put at risk.


Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety is an alliance of consumer, medical, public health, law enforcement and safety groups and insurance companies and agents working together to make America’s roads safer.  Advocates’ mission is the adoption of federal and state laws, policies and programs that prevent motor vehicle crashes, save lives, reduce injuries, and contain costs.