The dangers of switching on cruise, and then switching off

Subaru has a sophisticated Eyesight system on some of its vehicles to help avoid collisions, but drivers must always remain alert.
Subaru has a sophisticated Eyesight system on some of its vehicles to help avoid collisions, but drivers must always remain alert.

CRUISE Control systems have been around for many years and it's one of the nicer things that we have at our disposal.

But like everything it needs to be used correctly.

On a long trip on the highway it is an excellent driver aid that helps maintain a set speed and allows the driver to relax their right leg and foot. Doing this can help reduce fatigue and assist in making the journey a little more pleasant.

All this is a good thing but it shouldn't be used once you're off the highway, in heavy traffic or where the road starts to twist and turn.

Also, it is wise to switch back onto manual mode if weather conditions or visibility start to deteriorate.

Russell White.
Russell White.

The reason is that if you were to encounter a crisis situation on the road it could cost you valuable time in trying de-activating the system.  In addition, if for some reason the car's grip was compromised the system will attempt to keep the car travelling at the set speed right at the time when you need to be slowing down. 

So only use it when you're able to travel at a safe steady pace and if the conditions allow.

It is important to remember too that standard cruise control systems are not connected to the vehicles braking system and as a result they will not stop a vehicle from potentially travelling over the speed limit when travelling down a steep hill.

Newer vehicles fitted with ESP (electronic stability program) would de-activate cruise control if the ESP system activated.  However, it would always be better to err on the side of caution and retain manual control if the weather or road conditions are not ideal. 

Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) is the next generation cruise control systems. These intelligent systems use radar sensors to continuously measure the distance to the vehicle(s) in front, and the system automatically adapts the speed of the car to ensure that the distance is maintained.

When the radar sensor detects a slower vehicle in front of the car, the speed is automatically adapted to that vehicle even when it changes speed.

But even with these new technologies it's vital to keep in mind your role as the driver.

It's important to remember that when your cruise control is activated, you need to make sure that you don't allow yourself to fall into mental cruise control.  You will still need to keep a watchful eye for any potential risk or hazard.

Russell White's experience in the driver training industry spans more than 24 years. He is widely regarded as one of Australia's leading road safety advocates. His business offers the complete range of driver training and fleet management services, visit

Topics:  cars news motoring russell white

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