Cruise Control - Safe to Drive on Busy Highway?

Settle a little debate between my wife and myself. I maintain that it is very safe to drive our Subaru Outback using cruise control on busy highways where traffic is moving at say, 35mph and above, and where traffic is busy. (Woodward Avenue in Detroit is a particular point of reference and debate.) I cruise along with my foot near the brake in case I need to stop, and I regulate my speed with the cruise control features on the steering wheel. She maintains that this is either a dangerous practice and/or harmful to the cruise control. She says with all the stops that might be required it is dangerous driving or potentially harmful to the mechanism. I answer that it is not dangerous at all since my one foot is available to use on the brake. As for harmful to the mechanism, I don’t know why! Your thoughts? (BTW, the cruise control on our car has never malfunctioned, so that is not an issue)

Stop-N-Go traffic is not a safe time to use cruise control. Plus, it will cause problems later as your really overworking the control unit. Cruise control is intended for long stretches of driving to make it easier for you to maintain speed. The only time I use mine is on the interstate when I have more than 10 miles to drive. If the traffic gets heavy, and I have to constantly re-adjust the cruise control, I turn it off. It does no good that way.

The way I read your method, your in traffic, pull away, hit ‘resume’, and let the CC accelerate the car for you, and then hit the brake when traffic slows again. This is dangerous and wasteful. The CC accerelates the car rather briskly, and is probably wasting gas. Plus, your not in that much control. And constantly turning on and off the CC may cause damage to the unit. There are some recalls on some cars with CC that have had dangerous problems crop up. A friend of mine has mentioned that using the CC the way you describe has been the way most are found. I wouldn’t want to be in your car when the unit has a problem.

Hope you didn’t bet big. It is not safe to use cruise control in heavy traffic, you can’t react as quickly to changes in traffic flow, it doesn’t allow adjusting following distance as speeds vary (except for the most recent radar-based units). You lose.

It doesn’t have to be malfunctioning to be hazardous. The instructions that came with your car have warned you that cruise control isn’t safe to use in traffic, so your wife is not wrong.

If you read your ownner’s manual you will likely find that it says NOT to use the cruise control in heavy traffic (no matter how smoothly it flows), slippery roads, heavy rain, and other DANGEROUS road conditions.

If you get a high out of living dangerously, ignore your wife’s concern.

As others say, cruise control is for long distances with light traffic and good road conditions. It appears you misinterpret the meaning of “Cruising”.

Here’s one more vote for the OP being WRONG about the use of cruise control in the type of driving situation that he described.

Yes, the driver can override the CC, but when the “resume” button is pressed, the system will accelerate much more rapidly than is desirable, and this will inevitably lead to having to hit the brake again. In other words, the use of the cruise control in this situation will lead to increased brake wear, WORSE gas mileage, and–in general–less ability to control the car.

If the OP is obsessed with the ability to use his cruise control, that is fine, but the logic of it escapes me since there is no advantage to using it in this type of situation, and many reasons why it is not a good idea.

Your wife is correct that it is unsafe. The reason is that if you are not using the cruse control and you spot a hazard, you take your foot off the gas and place it over the brake pedal like you do with the cruise control on. The difference is with the cruise control on, the car is maintaining speed during that time instead of coasting.

Cruise control is for turning on and leaving at a particular speed. If there is a need to frequently regualte your speed, use the pedals. That is what they are for. Besides, cruise control saves fuel by maintaining a relatively constant speed. If there is enough traffic to require you to adjust your speed, there is no real benefit to using the cruise control.

Read your owners manual. I’ll bet it says NOT to use it heavy traffic.

If traffic is so heavy that you constantly play with the cruise control to modulate speed, I don’t see any advantage to using it. The accelerator pedal will work just as well. However, if traffic is flowing smoothly enough that you can set the cruise and leave it alone for several miles, go for it.

About 14 miles of my 17 mile commute is on interstate. I have the cruise set by the end of the on ramp. Occasionally, I have to touch the brakes, cancelling the setting, because I can’t get around slow traffic. As soon as I do get past, I go back on cruise. However, once I leave the interstate and have to deal with traffic lights, stop signs and backed up traffic, I give up on cruise.

Your wife is right. It is potentially dangerous to drive in noncompliance with her advice. Stop this immediately.

PS: I agree with her on the technical point also.

I don’t consider it an issue of safety, but of hassle. The hassle of setting the speed, then hitting the brake, and back and forth and so on. My father uses cruise control on back roads and it bugs the crap out of me! I reserve my use of the feature for longer highway trips, such as my weekend drives to my girlfriend’s at 78mph for 70 miles each way.

Your owner’s manual may also state a minimum speed at which you can use the cruise control. The minimum on our van is 45 MPH.

Cruise control is for highway cruising and often not useful in traffic, even heavy highway traffic. I use it during my highway commute, but only if I don’t have to adjust speed for traffic conditions. If traffic is too heavy, I don’t use it - even near 65 MPH.

It is not harmful to the mechanism until you rear end somebody from using the cc in traffic.

Your wife is correct, do not use it. Tell her she won the debate and take her out to dinner.