Are you new to driving? If so, you might be wondering… What is cruise control? People talk about it all the time, but you may not have been briefed on it just yet. To help get you up to speed, we’re going to go over everything you need to know about cruise control, including how to use it, when not to use it, and other handy details that will make your driving life much easier.

What is Cruise Control?

First, let’s go over the basics. Cruise control is a tool usually located on the steering wheel that allows you to lock in a speed so you can take your foot off the gas while traveling at the same, steady speed. Basically, when you press the button, it keeps your accelerator in the same exact position so you can take a break from pushing the pedal without slowing down. A lot of people like to use cruise control for long trips on the highway where the speeds are generally the same and the flow of traffic is smooth. You can turn off the cruise control at any time, usually by tapping the brake or manually pressing the button on your steering wheel.

Of course, every vehicle will have its own nuances about specific cruise control buttons. Be sure to do a good search around your steering wheel or look at the manual to find all the right buttons before you get on the road.

How to Use Cruise Control

Using cruise control is pretty straightforward. Once you’re on a long stretch of road that has minimal turns, stops, or driving maneuvers necessary, you may want to relax a little behind the wheel. Get your speedometer up to the speed limit, then press the cruise control’s “On” button. Most cars come standard with cruise control these days. Once your cruise control light turns on, your car is ready to lock in any speed whenever you’re ready.

When you hit your desired speed and feel comfortable doing so, there should be “Set” button (or something similar). Press that, and slowly take your foot off the gas pedal. You will probably notice your car is still traveling at the same speed! Some vehicles also have the option to raise the cruise control speed without turning it off, pressing the accelerator, and turning it on again—usually, it’s another button on the steering wheel that will let you raise the speed with your finger.

You can also press the gas pedal to speed up while you have cruise control on, but once you take your foot off, your car will go back down to the initial cruising speed you set. Again, you can turn it off anytime.

what is cruise control

When Not to Use Cruise Control

Cruise control is great for long road trips on straight, fast roads. It is not great, however, for city driving or other instances that require a lot of stop-and-go action. Additionally, we do not advise using cruise control in iffy driving conditions such as rainy, snowy, or foggy weather. In fact, using cruise control in the rain can increase your risk of hydroplaning, which is very dangerous.

You should also refrain from using the feature if you are tired or driving at night. Cruise control is a form of auto-pilot, and, while handy, it can be dangerous for those who are sleepy. It can enable people to take a snooze behind the wheel while the vehicle is traveling very fast on its own. Yikes! In the same vein, your vision is much more limited at night, and having your foot on the pedal is a much safer option than cruise control. You never know when you’ll need to slow down.

 

Using Cruise Control Safely

This convenience feature is a saving grace for many who have long commutes. And when cruise control is used correctly, it is great. To ensure you’re being safe while on “auto-pilot,” don’t let your eyes or attention stray from the road. Just because your speed is taken care of doesn’t mean your steering is. In fact, because you’re using cruise control, your reaction time to issues on the road will automatically be slower because you’ll have to turn off cruise control before you can do anything else. Stay alert and use the feature only when you feel comfortable on non-congested highways. And, if you’re known to suffer from driver fatigue, be wary of this feature. Resting your legs can make you become even sleepier behind the wheel.

Hopefully, by now you’re not still wondering “what is cruise control,” but if you have questions, feel free to ask us in the comments.