We hear about it all of the time from owners in Consumer Reports' safety surveys: lane-departure warnings are annoying. Turns out, as the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety discovered in a recent study, those warnings are so bothersome that about two thirds of owners turn off the feature.

To spot-check how systems are used in the real world, the IIHS observed 184 Honda Accords, CR-Vs, and Odysseys brought into dealerships in Maryland and Virginia. Of the inspected vehicles equipped with the feature, only one third had lane-departure warning turned on. Unlike some other systems, once lane-departure is disabled in Honda vehicles, it stays off—making such a study feasible.

None of this is to say that Honda drivers are particularly careless in their driving habits, or that Honda’s lane-departure warning system is specifically more annoying than those from any other automaker. In fact, in a recent Consumer Reports survey, there were complaints from respondents about every brand’s lane-departure warning systems.

Lane-departure warning systems use cameras to detect lane markings and monitor turn signal usage to determine if a driver is intentionally changing lanes. Irregular lane markings, curvy roads, or even sunlight warming the car can all cause an alert to activate. Drivers who are less likely to use their turn signals tend to also find the alerts triggered, and their annoyance levels raised.  

2016 Honda Accord controls, including lane-departure warning

“We are not surprised by these results as we experience the same frustrations in the cars we test. But lane-departure warning is a valuable feature, even though some work needs to be done to reduce the annoyance factor. The solution may be to activate the warning system only at highway speeds or link the system to GPS to reduce how often they alert on secondary roads,” says Jake Fisher, director of auto testing for Consumer Reports.

According to previous IIHS studies, lane-departure warnings have been consistently the most annoying of all crash avoidance technologies, so much that because it is frequently switched off, their studies cannot determine whether or not the feature is a safety benefit.

“Lane-departure warning has the potential to prevent a lot of the most serious crashes,” says Ian Reagan, an IIHS senior research scientist and the study’s lead author. “However, if people consider it a turn-signal nanny, they may not accept the feature.”

As one Consumer Reports reader mused, “Lane-departure warning made me realize that I weave too much, so I'm a better driver now. However, it's annoying in everyday driving, so I turn it on only when I'm driving while sleepy. Then I'm happy to have it.”