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Crash Avoidance Technology: What Works, What Doesn't

In 2012, a safety analysis conducted by the Highway Loss Data Institute revealed that while some crash avoidance technology is extremely effective in preventing car accidents, other tools may actually make matters worse in the face of a looming crash. The report analyzed autonomous braking features and adaptive headlights; revealed that blind-spot detection and park assist features have yet to show positive or negative effects; and lane departure warnings have actually been shown to cause more accidents than they prevent. The study was conducted on Acura, Mercedes, and Volvo vehicles.

The first feature they examined was a forward collision warning system, which alerts drivers when they are approaching traffic too quickly. Some of these systems even included autonomous brakes, which slow the car independently if the driver doesn't apply them manually. Acura and Mercedes vehicles equipped with these systems experienced a 14% reduction in crash reports; Volvo models experienced a 10% reduction.

Another feature researchers looked at was adaptive headlights, a system which allows headlights to follow steering so that they are always pointing in the direction in which the vehicle is travelling. Accidents in vehicles equipped with this feature fell by 10%; Matt Moore, vice president of the Highway Loss Data Institute said, "These lights appear to help in more situations than we anticipated, though we don't yet know why."

In contrast to the benefits provided by the first two safety systems, lane departure warnings had no positive effect on crash prevention and, in fact, actually caused a slight increase in accident claims on vehicles equipped with the systems. Researchers speculated that because the technology is still imperfect, warning signals may not always be accurate. Consumer Reports noted limited usefulness on windy, two-lane roads.

Moore said, "It may be that drivers are getting too many false alarms, which could make them tune out the warnings or turn them off completely." They suggest that further developing this feature to include measures that would autonomously force the car to stay in its lane could make the tool more effective at preventing crashes. Systems that rely on “attention-grabbers” do have the tendency to become overbearing, which prompts users to ignore them.

Blind-spot monitoring has seen some improvement in the last 4 years. Blind-spot monitoring uses radar to detect when there are objects on the side of the car—cyclists, pedestrians, and other vehicles. If a driver attempts to turn into an occupied blind-spot, the vehicle sends chirps and other signals to warn them of the danger. In 2015, Consumer Reports noted that they find blind-spot monitoring helpful.

As is the case with all technology, some crash avoidance tools are more effective and some less so at preventing car accidents. Regardless of which safety systems a vehicle is equipped with, drivers must still stay vigilant when behind the wheel, never engaging in distracting behaviors or losing their focus on the road. If you have been injured in a car accident caused by another driver's negligence, we can help. Contact the vehicle accident attorneys at Arnold & Itkin today for a free and confidential consultation.