I don’t know about you, but I’m a little tired of car manufacturers and the media reporting about the amazing things that cars might be able to do in the future, from drive me to work to tuck me in at night. Every time I see these stories, I think, “But these advances, such as self-driving cars, are years and years away from the mass market because our roadways and our laws simply aren’t prepared yet!”
But hark! It turns out that the smaller tweaks and active safety systems that manufacturers have been putting in cars for years are truly paying off in saved lives! I would much rather read stories about lives already saved by automobile active safety systems than hear one more story about the cars of the future. If you feel the same way, read on.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) recently released a report that had the car industry crowing. Among many other important findings, the IIHS reported: “Lane-keeping systems lowered rates of single-vehicle, sideswipe and head-on crashes of all severities by 11 percent, and crashes of those types in which there were injuries, by 21 percent.”
That, my friends, is real news. But, before I share more about these important findings, I thought I’d share a bit more about the systems that are making such a difference.
What Are Active Safety Systems Systems in a Vehicle?
According to Consumer Reports, “active safety systems” include:
- Automatic emergency braking (AEB): Brakes are automatically applied to prevent a collision or reduce collision speed.
- Forward-collision warning (FCW): Visual and/or audible warning intended alert the driver and prevent a collision.
- Blind-spot warning (BSW): Visual and/or audible notification of vehicle in blind spot. The system may provide an additional warning if you use your turn signal when there is a car next to you in another lane.
- Rear cross-traffic warning: Visual, audible, or haptic notification of object or vehicle out of rear camera range, but could be moving into it.
- Rear automatic emergency braking (Rear AEB): Brakes are automatically applied to prevent backing into something behind the vehicle. This could be triggered by the rear cross-traffic system, or other sensors on the vehicle.
- Lane-departure warning (LDW): Visual, audible, or haptic warning to alert the driver when they are crossing lane markings.
- Lane-keeping assist (LKA): Automatic corrective steering input or braking provided by the vehicle when crossing lane markings.
- Lane-centering assist: Continuous active steering to stay in between lanes (active steer, autosteer, etc.)
- Adaptive cruise control: Adaptive cruise uses lasers, radar, cameras, or a combination of these systems to keep a constant distance between you and the car ahead, automatically maintaining a safe following distance. If highway traffic slows, some systems will bring the car to a complete stop and automatically come back to speed when traffic gets going again, allowing the driver to do little more than pay attention and steer.
Honestly, the state of Colorado should simply give every teenage driver a car with active safety systems when they get their licenses. I’m guessing we’d cut fender-benders and awful collisions dramatically… and parents would get more sleep! But I digress…
Technology cut the fatal crash rate by 86 percent.
Active Safety Systems Prevent Crashes
Now, back to that study. For a long time, people wondered if these active safety systems were doing any good. I mean, it sounds great to have your car alerting you to obstacles in your blind spot as you change lanes, but we had little factual evidence that these systems truly prevented crashes. Until now. The IIHS study reported some amazing statistics:
- They found the technology cut the fatal crash rate by 86 percent.
- If all passenger vehicles had been equipped with lane departure warning systems in 2015, an estimated 85,000 police-reported crashes would have been prevented, the study found.
- When studying warning lights in side mirrors, the study found the systems lower the rate of all lane-change crashes by 14 percent and the rate of such crashes with injuries by 23 percent. If all passenger vehicles were equipped with these systems, about 50,000 police-reported crashes a year could be prevented, the study found.
While the active safety systems have the potential to save lives, they also distract drivers.
Eureka! This technology could put Denver personal injury attorneys out of business! Right?
Wrong. Sadly, another study found that, while the active safety systems may have the potential to save lives, they also have the potential to distract drivers. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s AgeLab found:
- Drivers using automated systems that scan for parking spots and then park the car spend a lot more time looking at dashboard displays than at the parking spot, the road in front or the road behind.
- Drivers using parking assist systems spent 46 percent of their time looking at the dashboard while approaching and selecting a parking spot compared to just 3 percent when not using the systems.
- Drivers of vehicles equipped with blind-spot monitoring have also told researchers that they don’t look behind them as often when changing lanes because they rely on the safety systems.
These systems take human decision-making out of the equation, which I find very risky. How many times have you avoided an accident using good, old-fashioned eye-contact with other drivers and pedestrians? I’m worried that these systems will make drivers more complacent behind the wheel.
Vehicles with Active Safety Systems: Highest Ratings
In May 2017, U.S. News & World Report came out with its rankings of the 11 cars with the best safety features. The list runs from small and affordable to big and luxurious. Often, the active safety features come in an upgrade package, but more and more manufacturers are including some features, like the backup camera, standard.
The following are the magazine’s top 11 cars with the best safety features (all 2017 models):
- Honda Ridgeline
- Genesis G90
- Audi A4
- Toyota Camry
- Honda CR-V
- Honda Accord
- Lexus RX 350
- Toyota Prius
- Chrysler Pacifica
- Tesla Model S
I’m excited about any study that says technology is saving lives… I just hope these advancements don’t turn us into zombies behind the wheel.
If you have any questions about this article, please call or email me today!