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Cruise Control: The Pros and Cons

You may not have had much opportunity to drive longer distances over the last year, but as restrictions are looking likely to ease, you may be starting to think about long overdue trips to see family, for work or for leisure.

Automotive technology seems to improve every day, with intelligent driving systems, electric and hybrid vehicles on the road, and even driverless cars soon to be a reality. Most of this technology has two motivations (other than making money for the manufacturer): to improve the driver’s comfort, and to improve road users’ safety. But can being too comfortable be dangerous?

In a nutshell, cruise control allows you to keep your vehicle at a set speed without having to use your accelerator or brake. You still steer and, of course, you can still brake should you need to, but as long as your feet remain off the pedals, your speed will remain the same. There’s no doubt that cruise control can be a knee saver on a long motorway journey. But before you reach for the cruise control, we look at the pros and cons of handing your control over to a piece of metal – albeit a very clever one.

The pros of cruise control:

  • Easier on the joints on long journeys.
  • Allows you to maintain a steady, legal speed so you are less likely to accidentally edge over the limit.
  • Increased fuel efficiency thanks to the consistent speed.

The cons of using cruise control:

  • Speed control is great – when used in the right situation. However, it is not intuitive – the vehicle’s speed will remain the same no matter what, unless the driver hits the brake or the accelerator. This means that if you take a corner too fast as a result of cruise control, the delay in braking can be a potential risk to safety. Likewise, if you skid or lose control, your vehicle will remain at the set speed, whereas a person would be more likely to take their foot off the accelerator.
  • Is it possible that cruise control is too relaxing? If you are tired or relaxed and there is no need to focus on your speed, it can be easy to become distracted or – in the worst case - fall asleep at the wheel.
  • Even if you stay relatively alert at the wheel, with one less thing to focus on, it can lead to a general lack of attention to the road – as a result, this can lead to delayed braking or failure to react swiftly in the event of an emergency.

The verdict:

If you have ever hit the motorway only to see the sat nav say “stay on road for another 130 miles” then you will probably love cruise control. Dodge the risk of getting a speeding ticket, and save your leg at the same time. Like many technological advances, there is a time and a place for cruise control: busy or twisty roads? No. Steady motorway or carriageway journeys? Put the radio on, stay alert, and enjoy the journey.

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