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Cruise control is one of the many technologies developed for cars that have made driving more enjoyable. Cruise control is also helpful for those who spend a lot of time in the car traveling or commuting. It is a simple feature that helps make driving less physically and mentally tiring.

Believe it or not, cruise control has been around since the early 1900s. However, standard vehicles didn’t have built-in cruise control until the 1970s. Today, virtually every car on the road sports cruise control among a wide array of other electronics.

But just like any other technology, cruise control has its advantages and disadvantages…

The Advantages of Cruise Control

Relax on the Road. The advantages of cruise control are a dime a dozen. One of the primary advantages is that it allows drivers to maintain the same speed without having to keep their right foot on the pedal. This allows the driver to relax, something that is very beneficial, especially during a long road trip.

Safety Over Speed. Cruise control also helps reduce the driver’s tendency to speed, which can help increase safety and decrease the likelihood of accidents—and getting pulled over. For those with the “lead foot syndrome,” this is significantly reduces the risks of speeding.

Efficient Fuel Economy. Additionally, keeping the car at a consistent speed significantly improves fuel economy. Maintaining a consistent speed requires less gas (and less exhaust).

The Disadvantages of Cruise Control

Those who use cruise control should use it with caution, however, because the disadvantages of cruise control can outweigh the advantages at time.

Relax… But Don’t Get TOO Relaxed. Although a primary benefit of cruise control is to make it easier on the driver, if a driver becomes too mentally disengaged from the road, then this can decrease his or her awareness. As a result, the driver may not react as quickly in the event a car ahead brakes suddenly, or an animal runs out into the road. Inclement weather conditions can also pose a problem.

This is what’s known as “highway hypnosis” and can, understandably, be very dangerous. In other words, the ability to “read” the road decreases, meaning that not only is speed an issue, but also the driver’s ability to react to changing road conditions reduce.

When Technology Fails… Although cruise control in newer vehicles is much safer than it is in older models, technology can fail. For example, in some rare—but possible—cases, cruise control can fail on, which can make it incredibly difficult to brake or stop the car.

Again, these cases are extremely rare, but they can happen. So, if you drive an older vehicle with cruise control, use with caution. Slightly pump the brakes every now and again to ensure that cruise control shuts off correctly.

Cruise with Care

All in all, cruise control is a convenient feature to have in your vehicle, especially if you spend a lot of time in the car. However, cruise control and self-driving cars are too different things. Cruise control will not control handling the car for you; it merely controls your speed. With all of this in mind, use cruise control wisely, and to your advantage.

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