Are your customers safe?


in that magical moment when a customer gets the keys to his or her new vehicle and proudly drives it off the lot, no one really wants to dampen the mood by seriously questioning whether the customer has been briefed adequately about how to operate it safely.

But someone at your dealership needs to own customer training. Yes, not staff training but customer training.

Beyond the basics of figuring out how to start the vehicle and adjust the mirrors and seats, today’s vehicles are so loaded with technology and infotainment features — there’s an argument to be made that we are handing our customers a loaded gun — and one without the safety in place.

That type of argument is already being made publicly, particularly with the safety risks linked to the distracting and often difficult to operate in-vehicle infotainment systems. As our Tech Talk columnist Gerry Malloy writes in this issue: “hands-free isn’t risk free.” Today’s vehicles expose drivers to hazards and distractions that would not have even been imaginable a decade ago — and regulators are starting to take notice.

Malloy cites recent research from the U.S.-based AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety that suggests some of these new technologies will lead to even more driver accidents and fatalities. “There is a looming public safety crisis ahead with the future proliferation of these in-vehicle technologies,” said AAA President and CEO Robert L. Darbelnet. “It’s time to consider limiting new and potentially dangerous mental distractions built into cars.”

The AAA cites new research from the University of Utah that found that as mental workload and distractions increase, reaction time slows, brain function is compromised and drivers scan the road less, missing cues. This can result in them not seeing items right in front of them such as stop signs and pedestrians. The study finds the newest technologies such as voice activated text messaging and email posed even more risks than talking on cellphones.

In June, the AAA sent letters to the OEMs advising them of the findings and called on them to limit the use of these technologies, particularly while the vehicle is in motion, and for better education of consumers.

But who should educate consumers about how to properly and safely use these new technologies? As dealers look for more reasons to be relevant to their customers, they should fully embrace their role as the “product trainer” and help their customers enjoy their vehicles — and that includes learning to drive them safely.

About Todd Phillips

Todd Phillips is the editorial director of Universus Media Group Inc. and the editor of Canadian auto dealer magazine. Todd can be reached at

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